A Forgotten Vin Diesel Flop Is Trending On Streaming

Vin Diesel is more than just a franchise machine, but that does not mean all his movies work out the way he wanted them to.

By Mark McKee | Published

Vin Diesel

When looking back on an actor’s career, there are almost always a fair amount of both successes and failures. In the new world of streaming services, some failures get a new life when watched at home at low risk. One failure from Vin Diesel’s successful career has found new life on HBO Max, as Babylon A.D. skyrocketed to a surprising number eight on the streaming service. 

Successes come when an actor finds the perfect niche for their acting talents. Like Dwayne Johnson playing the action-comedy or Ryan Reynolds playing the sarcasm to level one million. For Vin Diesel, it is an adrenaline-fueled action movie allowing him to wear a tank-top and show off his biceps. The failures, however, can come from all over the board. Anything can go wrong and cause the entire production to go off the rails. 

When you think about Vin Diesel, you probably immediately think about Dominic Toretto growling something about family as he flicks on his NOS tank to vanquish all, one quarter-mile at a time. However, there are nearly 60 films under his belt, some that deserve your attention and others you should probably consider passing on. After his small but admittedly impactful role as Private Caparzo in Saving Private Ryan, Diesel saw a collection of years that would go on to define his life. Between 2000 and 2002, he would star in the first installment of three (yes, three) different franchises. They would collectively go on to include 15 movies and gross a total of just over $2.75 billion. But he has more on his resume than The Fast and the FuriousxXx, and Riddick franchises. All three of those series have more installments on the way, according to his IMDB page

He has a few diamonds in the rough mixed in with all of the high-octane action films. Vin Diesel’s first true showing happened in 2000 when he worked alongside Ben Affleck in the financial thriller Boiler Room. He then found himself among heavy hitters John Malkovich and Dennis Hopper. He and newcomer Barry Pepper led a group of mob kids in Knockaround Guys. And in 2003, he led the emotional cop thriller, A Man Apart. The film follows a man seeking retribution for the murder of his wife by a cartel leader he arrested. All of these films happened before his sequels, and he was launched as a franchise tough guy. While there are a few standalone, the last 20 years or so have been largely dedicated to big-budget sequels.

Vin Diesel

In that mix of sporadic films lay one of the biggest flops of his career. Vin Diesel himself labeled Babylon A.D. an “homage to Blade Runner” in an interview with MTV News. The film follows Toorop (Diesel), a mercenary living by the code of kill or be killed. He takes a job escorting a young woman from Russia to New York. The journey goes over a dystopian land filled with death squads and danger. The girl begins to show signs of psychic abilities, and Toorop begins to suspect that the girl may be humankind’s last chance of survival in the post-apocalyptic world.

That kind of film definitely sounds right up Vin Diesel’s ally. A science-fiction action banger that sets him up as a rugged hero? Classic Vin. But problems arose immediately that caused the film to go downhill fast. Director Mathieu Kassovitz recalled what went wrong as reported by Daily Hind News. He accused the actor of being a diva and being afraid to perform stunts on set. He also alleged he was often late to shoots and, once there, would push his own ideas on the production. The director even says Diesel went so far as to get parts of the crew to act against him. The group even began to shoot their own shots. One of the other actors, Jerome Le Banner, who played Killa, corroborated by calling it a “[c]rappy atmosphere.” He recalled that he had to go to Diesel’s trailer multiple times to get him to train for fight scenes, and he wasn’t cooperative. 

Not everyone agrees with the narrative, as fight choreographer Alain Figlarz revealed Vin Diesel arrived on set nearly a month ahead of schedule specifically to train on the fight scenes. He admitted the actor was three hours late for a session at one point, but since he wasn’t supposed to be there in the first place, no one was taking offense. Except as he said, “Kasso throws a camera in his face and tells him to go get f*****.” He revealed the insurance company took over finishing the film by the end of the production. With that kind of press coming out of the camp and going head to head with Tropic Thunder and The Dark Knight, it was a box office disaster waiting to happen. 

14 years later, Diesel’s homage to Ridley Scott’s science-fiction masterpiece is enjoying a resurgence on HBO Max. No matter how bad the film tanked in the theater, the no-risk, watch-from-home prospect of streaming services allows viewers to sit back and relax to enjoy the movie for what it is, another Vin Diesel action flick with maybe a little bit of a storyline, but mostly action.