Ballistic - Ecks vs. Sever
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This is a story of two spies, who are lifelong adversaries, engaged in a cat-and-mouse hunt. Jonathan Ecks (Banderas) is an FBI agent hunting the other, Sever (Liu) a rogue NSA agent. What they learn, however, while trying to kill each other... is that they might be on the same side, and faced with a threat greater to each other than themselves.
- HBO First Look: The Making of "Ballistic"
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Ecks (Banderas) is a semi-retired FBI agent picked up by some kind of shadow government that also happens to be DIA, linked to Canadian officials, sort of, who kidnap female Chinese orphans - insert Lucy Liu - to create special agent assassins, or something. Thrown into the mix is a woman married to two men, a child being held for personal ransom, and some imaginary top secret, microscopic computer hardware that can induce heart attacks or embolisms. When there is no empathy for a woman whose child has been abducted, you know the movie is complete chaos. Speaking of that...
The director of this trainwreck is named Kaos, a pseudonym presumably used because he feels guilty that the plot and direction of this film resembles the consistency of diarrhea. This movie is laughably bad. Way too little back story, far too few details for character development, there simply isn't anything developed. And when explanations are given, they are delivered through slow-mo camera shots and three word sentences.
Aside from a couple explosions - which are completely contrived and unconvincing - there is nearly nothing redeemable about this movie. Even the soundtrack is an irritating distraction. Watch it if you feel like quoting the lines before the characters, predicting the outcome thirty minutes early, and yawning during the "climactic" final showdown.
Now, usually I do enjoy watching action films, as long as it keeps me awake throughout. And I will admit that sometimes I ignore the plot and just immerse myself into the awesomeness of the gunfights and explosions. The Rock and the first two Predator films can be good examples of this. But with Ballistic, it's a different story. While the film doesn't succeed in giving an intriguing story, it makes matters worse by succeeding in giving weak and tedious action. There are a number of problems involving the gunfights. None of the characters look as if their adrenaline is at a high level. The cameras are sometimes too distant from where the action is taking place. Sever is fired at multiple times and is never hit by a single bullet, resulting in a lack of a sense of jeopardy towards the character. Some of the choreography is a bit off, especially during the fight between Sever and A.J. Ross (Ray Park). And what's worse than dull action scenes? Playing loud techno music in the middle of all of this so-called pandemonium. It looks like the creators didn't realize that it has "cliché" written all over it. But the worst part about the soundtrack that it's mostly inappropriately placed. For example, The Crystal Method's "Name of the Game" is played when special agents remain quiet as they try to figure out the actual location of their enemy when a smoke grenade is set off. This really ruins the suspense, which is ironic since there's no suspense whatsoever in this entire film. And speaking of music, there's a female voice that just goes "ahhhh-ahhhh-ahhhh" from beginning to end. I do enjoy this sort of vocal music in any type of film. However, this woman gives a poor performance: she's out of tune all the time. It's more annoying than hypnotic.
But what about the characters? Well, they're your basic archetypes: tortured hero, calm and calculated heroine, heartless villain, etc. Most of them are forgettable, since they're pretty much unlikable. And the actors? Let's just say that they don't seem to care themselves. They just say their lines as if they're reading off cue cards. Talisa Soto (as Rayne Gant) is the worst of the bunch, since she doesn't say a single line with a bit of conviction. Plus, her accent is more of a disturbance when she speaks (no offense). How did she survive the audition, anyway?
If there's anything that's good about this film, I will admit that there are two scenes that I found quite satisfying. There is a scene in which a pair of automobiles flip over and crash on the asphalt. Out of all the action sequences in this movie, this one is quite breathtaking to watch. And then, there's a scene that is set in an aquarium. It's a decent-looking environment, with the entire place being beautifully lit.
According to the Rotten Tomatoes website, Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever has a 0% rating among critics. This is considered to be the worst of the worst in the 2000's. I wouldn't consider this film to be the absolute worst of the decade, but it could very well be a runner-up. With an uninteresting plot, underwhelming action scenes, annoying music, and wooden performances, this movie isn't even worthy of a Saturday-night rental. This could be a treat for those who enjoy watching poorly-directed action films.
Grade: 2.8 out of 10
The story is in a bit on the loopy side. In the beginning, the mother, who's played by Kitana from the "Mortal Kombat" movies, got to visit her son but then her husband, Robert Gant, ordered to bring his son back after she spend about five minutes with him. Just as the boy's bodyguards were to take him back, he was kidnapped by a rouge assassin codenamed Sever (Liu). The FBI hired a former agent named Ecks (Banderas) to arrest Gant, who happens to be the director of the DIA with criminal ties, and to do so he has to find the assassin who has the son, who also carried a deadly nanomachine planted within him by his father. He didn't want to, but when they mentioned the wife (which he thought was dead but is really alive), he joined in. Ecks chased Sever around, they fought, but later they don't and eventually join forces once she told him the truth about the wife, and together they fight the unambiguous bad guy. And boy, Robert Gant is extremely unsubtle: the guy smiles and he has that smug look on his face, all throughout the entire movie; he might as well wear a shirt that says "I'm the villain".
One thing I gotta give this movie credit for is that the film's shot in Vancouver and it takes place in Vancouver. Which begs the question as to why the FBI and DIA, both US security forces, are taking action outside their jurisdiction. To be fair, I only discovered this plot hole online, and there were other big questions that stabbed into my mind: Why didn't the bad guy bother to have his son shipped to his mother if he was gonna take him back at the last second? Why did Sever had to shoot a security official when she had a good opportunity to escape, especially after a hectic fight from the cops? Why did the cops arrest Ecks for apparently shooting his superior when he's nowhere near him, and why didn't the superior clear that up (who was alive at the time)? What happened to the FBI after he was arrested? How did gun manage to shoot backwards to kill the one holding it in one scene? Why didn't the bad guy just implant the deadly nanomachine into one of the members of his team and put him into hiding instead of risking it on his child?
It had an incredulously dumb plot, but "Ballistic" doesn't want to provoke anything wise. If I wanted to see a thought-provoking action film, I would've seen "Inception". The action scenes in the film weren't bad, it doesn't try to be too fancy except for the lousy scenes where it's slow-motion from one position and normal-timed on the other. The movie did have the worst reaction to a gunshot I've seen: at one point in the film, Sever shot a bad guy in the arm, and he just dropped it on the side and nonchalantly said "ouch"; it's funny in a way. Dumb as it is, it's got enough explosions and gunfights to merit some kind of watchability. Too bad there weren't enough sound and fury to disguise the awful love song in the end credits.