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5 Great Charlize Theron Performances in Not So Great Movies

Always an impressive performer, her movies haven't always done so well.

Charlize Theron is a actress who as been working in film since the mid 1990s, a former model who earned a high place in the industry early on with some impressive appearances in big budget movies, her statuesque physique and beautiful features making her instantly memorable.

Theron won an Academy Award for her work in the bio-pic Monster (2003), where she notably transformed herself looks and delivered a career-defining performance that many critics site as one of the greatest in cinema history. Throughout her career, she’s been able to balance the allure of her beauty with mixes of comedy and unconventional roles that have helped to establish her as a bit of a chameleon as well as one of the best actors of her generation. She’s certainly been in a string of hits, but not all have been winners. Here are 5 great performance from Charlize Theron in not-so-great movies.


2 Days in the Valley (1996)

Charlize Theron
2 Days in the Valley, 1996 © Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

A savage black comedy, the film follows 48 hours in the intersecting lives of a group of seedy types in Los Angeles, starting with a betrayal by one hitman over another and escalating from there before coming full circle in the end. An ensemble cast of once and future stars, including Danny AielloJeff DanielsTeri Hatcher, and James Spader, the film drew mixed reviews for its dark story and uneven performances.

Charlize Theron
2 Days in the Valley, 1996 © Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Theron plays Helga Svelgen, the sultry girlfriend of Lee Woods (Spader) and while she has limited screen time, was the only one prominently placed on the theatrical poster (for obvious reasons), and wowed both critics and audiences for her fiery and sexy turn as a femme fatale type. She gets nude and steams of the screen, but also has a cool catfight with Hatcher. Rewatching the movie, both she and Daniels make this worth watching, and it’s timing perhaps ruined its chances for success, given the era of Pulp Fiction.



Mighty Joe Young (1998)

Charlize Theron
Mighty Joe Young, 1998 © Buena Vista Pictures

When you think of building-sized ape movies, naturally, King Kong comes to mind, but as far back as 1949, another large gorilla was trying to make a name for itself, one brought to us by the same people responsible for Kong’s first film. In this remake, a the story focuses on Joy, a silverback that has grown to fifteen feet and as such, drawn the attention of both conservationists and poachers, particularly one named Andrei (Rade Šerbedžija), who lost a finger to Joe when he was an infant, now wanting revenge.

Charlize Theron
Mighty Joe Young, 1998 © Buena Vista Pictures

Theron plays Jill Young, the daughter of a woman killed by Andrei in Africa, who has taken Joe and raised him in secret, his growth unexplained but so dramatic it leaves other gorillas unwilling to accept him into their troop. She ends up in Los Angeles at a conservancy under the protection of Professor Gregory “Gregg” O’Hara (Bill Paxton), though threats continue to press on the massive animal. Less a monster movie than a sweet tale of friendship, the movie earned mixed reviews, but it’s very charming and Theron is great fun to watch. Also, another Rick Baker created ape? Gotta watch it.


Trapped (2002)

Charlize Theron
Trapped, 2002 © Columbia Pictures

A kidnapping story with a dark twist, this thriller centers a trio of criminals who hold children of wealthy parents ransom for a short time, but their latest victim is soon revealed to have much deeper meaning and stems from an act of revenge rather than money. A vehicle for Kevin Bacon, the caper did not do well at the box office and earned mostly negative reviews, despite some good performances and a slick production.

Charlize Theron
Trapped, 2002 © Columbia Pictures

Theron plays Karen Jennings, a nurse and wife of Dr Will Jennings (Stuart Townsend), whose daughter Abby (Dakota Fanning) is taken. The problem is, the little girl suffers from asthma and is dependent on an inhaler, which draws in Karen as a hostage. While the story is a bit obvious and filled with tropes and  boilerplate plotting, Theron elevates it to another level, saving the whole thing from total disaster. Also, fanning is adorable.


Æon Flux (2005)

Charlize Theron
Æon Flux, 2005 © Paramount Pictures

Based on the animated television series, this live-action re-imaging of the story sees a future world recovering from a plague that wiped out nearly all of humanity, centering on an assassin hired to kill the new government’s corrupt chairman, only to discover something much more nefarious. Panned by critics for its broad betrayal of the source material, the film is nonetheless good to look at and is well-directed by Karyn Kusama, despite claims the studio re-edited her vision.

Charlize Theron
Æon Flux, 2005 © Paramount Pictures

Theron plays the titular lead, a member of the Monicans, a rebel organization who communicate through telepathy-technology. While the story certainly strays from the source, there’s no taking away from the look and atmosphere of the setting, even it if some of it feels undercooked. Theron however, is perfectly cast, sleek and alluring, and reveals she’s got the chops for action, no matter the material she’s trying to bring to life. Just look at these pictures.


Hancock (2008)

Charlize Theron
Hancock, 2008 © Columbia Pictures

Hancock is a strange film, one that should have been a whole lot better than it is, and while it was a huge box office success, riding on the considerable draw of Will Smith as a reluctant superhero, it left many a little off kilter about what to think of it. Smith is funny as an immortal who doesn’t much care about being the savior of mankind, undergoing a PR rebranding from a specialist named Ray (Jason Bateman), which could have stopped right there, but, instead, veers into something altogether different.

Charlize Theron
Hancock, 2008 © Columbia Pictures

Theron plays Mary, Ray’s wife, and to say any more would spoil the film, but suffice to say, she is much, much more. The role sees her plays a broad spectrum and while some might question the purpose of it all, she delivers big action and laughs, keeping pace with Smith the whole way through. While the movie is not a complete mess, it’s more underwhelming, given the star power and potential, but Theron is great fun nonetheless.


Got a favorite film from Charlize Theron? Let us know in the comments below.

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