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Dustin Putman

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Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever (2002)

Directed by Wych Kaosayananda
Cast: Antonio Banderas, Lucy Liu, Gregg Henry, Ray Park, Talisa Soto, Miguel Sandoval, Terry Chen, Roger R. Cross
2002 – 89 minutes
Rated: Rated R (for non-stop violence).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, September 21, 2002.

To get a general idea of how stunningly inept "Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever" is, take a good look at its name: there are two separate titles to be found, and neither makes any sense in relation to the film's storyline. "Ballistic?" Purely generic, direct-to-video fare. "Ecks vs. Sever?" These two lead characters aren't even fighting each other; they're on the same side! As dumbfoundedly plotted and joylessly executed as a big-budget action flick could possibly be, the only entertainment one may be able to pull out of suffering through 89 minutes of "Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever" is a helping handful of hearty, unintended laughs.

The basic premise—or what there is of it—tells of mopey FBI agent Jeremiah Ecks (Antonio Banderas), who is promised new information about his allegedly deceased wife (Talisa Soto) in return for investigating the kidnapping of fellow agent Gant's (Gregg Henry) son. The kidnapper, it turns out, is ruthless DIA agent Sever (Lucy Liu), a deadly martial arts and weapon expert who is actually out to save the young boy and kill the crooked Gant. When Ecks discovers that his wife is alive and well, after all, remarried to the backstabbing Gant, he teams up with Sever to stop Gant once and for all. A key plot point involving a microchip that fits into a person's body and has the power to kill them is so preposterous I dare not utter another word about it.

As a whole, "Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever," directed by Wych Kaosayananda (Kaos, for short), is so ridiculous it has to be seen to be believed, though such an idea would be ill-advised. How such a hyper-stylized, action-packed film filled with more explosions than any other movie I've ever seen could manage to be mercilessly boring is a feat worth marveling. There is no immediacy to the proceedings, no excitement, no rooting interest, and no driving force offered for why the viewer should invest time and care into any of it. If Kaos should have learned one thing from his experiences on "Ballistic," we can only hope it was that a nonstop avalanche of nifty pyrotechnics does not a successful action pic make.

Not helping matters are the usually reliable Antonio Banderas (2002's "Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams") and Lucy Liu (2000's "Charlie's Angels"), whose yawn-inducing portrayals of Ecks and Sever suggest they were heavily medicated on Dramamine for the duration of the film shoot. Banderas sulks and looks earnest, but there is no flair or depth to his assortment of frowns. Meanwhile, Liu has a total of about ten lines of dialogue (if that), doing nothing but running around the city of Vancouver while putting to destructive use her arsenal of bombs, guns, and missiles. Curious, how Sever can blatantly hover above a highway overpass with a huge missile in hand, and none of the cars below even flinch. Funny, too, how she lives in a literal underground lair that looks every bit as cliched as the term suggests.

Coming from any viewpoint possible, "Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever" is horrendously amateurish filmmaking that is plainly dull and visually ugly when it isn't incomprehensible, and offensively one-note when it isn't unintentionally humor-filled. Plot holes too large and numerous to disregard litter every corner of the story, as does one tedious explosion after the next. What Banderas, Liu, or anyone else saw in this project is not even hinted at in the finished product. In making "Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever," director Kaos has proven his sheer disrespect for the intelligence of mainstream audience members. To him, we are not merely viewers, but genuine fools.

©2002 by Dustin Putman

Dustin Putman