"Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever"
Directed by Kaos.
Written by Alan B. McElroy.
Starring Antonio Banderas and Lucy Liu.
Release Year: 2002
Review Date: 10/16/02
Yeah, I saw it. I had too! I’m an ACTION
MOVIE FAN. There are almost no action releases on the fall slate,
so that should tell you that I am actually considering seeing the
Jason Statham “film” “The Transporter” as well. (Oh my. Oh my
I have actually been following “Ballistic”
since the end of last year, when the video game was released for the
Game Boy Advance. The setup is promising: Agent Ecks (Antonio
Banderas) is selected to head up an FBI task force to track down
Sever (Lucy Liu), a rogue DIA agent that has kidnapped a former
agent’s son. Two trained professionals, Ecks and Sever spend the
entire video game trying to kill each other. These kinds of movies
can be very good (“Terminator 2: Judgment Day”), so-so (“Demolition
Man”), or just plain bad (“Assassins”). I’ve felt since I first saw
Liu onscreen that emotionless killers are what she can do best, and
she is perfectly cast here as Sever, a role originally written as a
guy. Her eyes consistently look blank, and she is flat-out hot.
One also gets the feeling that she could whoop your ass if you
catcalled her too many times. Banderas is usually good in action
films (save for the aforementioned “Assassins”), so I figured hey,
what the heck.
Unfortunately, the execution of the ideas
here is mostly atrocious. Why is this? Well, the reasons are
numerous (besides the film’s way-too-long title), but I’ll offer
-->The film was shot PG-13, and ended up
with an R. According to press reports, “Ballistic” was intended to
be a PG-13, but because of its numerous shootouts, ended up as an R
due to gun violence. So, you come in thinking there will be
adult-level action scenes and instead, you get
death scenes (there are no head shots, bloodied uniforms and what
not) where men get hit with one shot and fall over dead. This would
be fine if the shots hit guys in the head...but, they are hitting
men already wearing Kevlar vests square in the chest. The
ass-kicking provided by Sever is subdued, and because her fighting
scenes are not sped up, her kicks come off looking too choreographed
and not lethal enough. These are the kinds of problems that have
absolutely destroyed parts of the last two James Bond films...which
makes me worry about the upcoming
“Die Another Day.”
-->Easier lines for Antonio. Hey, I love
the guy, but some of his lines are nearly impossible to
understand...not that he is saying anything too important, but it
would have been nice to understand it. In
“Spy Kids”, there was
never a problem; here, it’s like his first films in the
English-speaking US market following a film career that took place
mostly in Spanish-speaking roles.
-->A total waste of Ray Park. Okay, so
clearly the budget for the film was such that Gregg Henry (also the
bad guy in “Payback”) and Ray Park were the only guys available for
head bad guy and main lieutenant roles. But, if you got Ray
Park—known heretofore as Darth Maul—you might as well use his
martial-arts skills. So, why only use him in one scene? ONE
SCENE!! This is where I think to myself, I know writers that could
work in Hollywood right now!
-->Bad child acting. The child that Liu’s
character Sever kidnaps in the early stages of the film is so bad
that I just started feeling sorry for him in about his second
scene. I mean, seriously, you just don’t fathom how good Haley Joel
Osment is until you see films with truly-bad child actors. This is
why the Hollywood mantra is “no kids, no pets.”
I will admit, “Ballistic” director Kaos
stages a couple of the action scenes pretty well and it appears that
Banderas and Liu are doing almost all of their own stuntwork, which
always earns films extra Bellview points. The end sequence is not
too shabby, and it features enough explosions and loud gunfire to
appease almost any male appetite. But, it could have been so much
more...like the whole damned movie. Don’t worry, it will probably
be on HBO by Christmas time.
Comments? Drop me a line at
Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard