In Ballistic: Ecks Vs. Sever all sorts of things blow up with alarming spectacle. In a theatre with state-of-the-art sound, this has an impressively bone-jarring impact. That is apparently it’s entire raison d’etre — if that’s what you want in a movie, it’s a rousing success. It certainly hasn’t much going for it by way of plot or characterization.
No, that’s wrong. It hasn’t got anything going for it by way of plot or characterization. Hell, even the sub-title doesn’t make sense. Outside of 15 minutes of battle between the title characters, the two are on the same side… I think.
It’s not always easy to tell what’s going on in this movie which has all the emotional depth of a video game, and the dramatic coherence we associate with the lesser works of Ed Wood. A grimly amusing Antonio Banderas performance (what was the man thinking?) is the only reason it even rates a mention.
Watching Banderas’ performance it’s hard not to think of the possibly apocryphal story about Peter Bogdanovich asking for his motivation for running across a rooftop when being directed by Orson Welles, only to be told by the Great Man, “You’re running across the roof because I f***ing tell you you’re running across the roof!” Well, Kaos (nee Wych Kaosayananda) is no Orson Welles, but it’s hard to imagine he offered any more enlightening direction.
What plot there is concerns Agent Sever (Lucy Liu, who has about 30 lines of dialogue — often consisting of one word) avenging the death of her infant child in the most noisily spectacular manner possible. Jeremiah (or Jeremy — the script seems unclear on this point) Ecks (Banderas), a drink-sodden FBI agent who spends all his time propping up a bar like a refugee from a bad film noir, gets called in on the case.
It turns out that Ecks is lamenting his wife’s death — only she’s not dead. She’s married to the bad guy and her son (who turns out to be Ecks’ son in tidy cinematic manner) has been kidnapped by Sever — not for revenge, but because his foster father has smuggled a most improbable assassination device into the country inside the lad and…
Oh, who cares? It’s an excuse to blow up a whole lot of stuff, with this virtue over other exercises in exploding cinema: It’s perfectly honest about what it is and mercifully short. It never pretends to be witty and doesn’t waste 30 minutes trying to convince us that its lead actor is a star a la the execrable XXX (but then we don’t need convincing that Banderas is a star). There’s something admirable about that, but not admirable enough to make it worth your time or money unless your life just isn’t complete without seeing an entire rail yard blown to high heaven.