The first time Ronda Rousey saw "The Expendables 3," she watched the movie while covering her face with her hands.
Rousey, the UFC women's bantamweight champion, plays Luna in the film, which opened nationwide Friday. Luna, Rousey says, "is a lot more cold-blooded than I am."
She spent eight weeks on a set in Bulgaria last year, shortly before she returned home to defend her title in a grudge match in Las Vegas against Miesha Tate at UFC 168. Rousey said seeing herself on the screen for the first time was nerve wracking, though.
As she watched with a group of friends, she knew they'd be peeking a glance at her. This woman, who seems totally comfortable fighting or doing interviews in front of crowds, struggled to deal with the scrutiny the first time around.
"Anyone I was watching the movie with would look at my face to see my reaction to watching myself and so I got self-conscious about how I looked watching me," Rousey told Yahoo Sports, chuckling.
The film has gotten so-so reviews at best, but Rousey has been singled out for praise by numerous critics. The Independent in London wrote, "She is the only significant female character in the film but is woefully underused."
A review on RogerEbert.com says of her, "Standing out from this bunch is MMA fighter Ronda Rousey, who displays a leadership quality that aligns her with Barney despite her stereotypical entrance fighting several men while dressed for maximum hotness."
Indiewire.com 's review said of Rousey, "The film momentarily spikes when a young female Expendable is introduced, played by wrestler Ronda Rousey, although it dips just as suddenly when it becomes very clear that she is the only Expendable whose paramilitary get-up has a plunging neckline."
The Boston Globe's review referred to Rousey as "a pumped-up Julia Stiles lookalike unafraid to give Barney some sass."
The Los Angeles Times' Kenneth Turan wrote of Rousey, " … as the world's top female mixed martial artist, she makes the biggest impression … "
Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times didn't like the movie and didn't like Rousey. He was the reviewer most critical of Rousey's performance.
He wrote, Rousey is a "terrific fighter but such a horrible actress, her attempts at conveying emotion make it look as if she just had some horrific gastronomic accident."
Rousey – who has filmed roles in "Fast & Furious 7" and "Entourage," and has a book being adapted into a film to feature her, "The Athena Project" – is a highly intelligent woman. She knows she's not ready to earn an Academy Award nomination yet. But she wants a career in the movies and has hired acting coach Warner Loughlin to help her development.
She can easily pick out the mistakes she's made in fights, even though she's so dominant most critics don't catch them. But it's not as easy, she said, watching her acting.
"It's much harder for me to judge myself in a movie," she said. "I definitely have big goals and aspirations, but I'm also not delusional in that I know I have a lot to learn and a lot to improve upon. It's hard for me to be as good of a critic of myself in a movie as I am in fighting. I know that so thoroughly and I grew up doing it.
"It's a lot simpler for me to critique my fighting as opposed to acting. I'm so new at this and I care so much and I'm trying so hard. But I also have so much to learn that it's easy to doubt my ability to properly critique it."
Moviegoers now get the opportunity to critique it. But with two other films already under her belt and at least another on the way, Rousey is going to become a more familiar face for the movie fans.
Much like her fight career, she's not going to worry about how the critics perceive her.
"I'm going to affect and control what I can and do the best job I can when I have a role," she said. "But how people perceive it, I don't have a hand in that and so I can't let myself be concerned with it."