Promotionally speaking, Ballistic cloaks itself as harmless, shoot-em-up fun. Moviegoer beware, it’s an evil plot to fool you into watching what becomes a humorless and poorly planned excursion into a boring land of explosions and underdeveloped intrigue.
Directed by Wych Kaosayananda, who not so cleverly bills himself as “Kaos”, Ballistic: Ecks vs Sever is based upon the bottom rung in video gaming, a Nintendo Game Boy game. Charged with destroying each other, Agent Ecks (Antonio Banderas) of the FBI and Agent Sever (Lucy Liu) of the NSA team up when they discover they may both be on the wrong side.
Some might describe it as one big explosion, however were that actually the case, there could be something worth watching in Ecks vs Sever. Instead, we’ve been given a series of explosions interspersed with interminably bland and forced plot development, which attempts to be clever and complicated, but attains only confusion and over the top seriousness. Amidst an obsession with smoke, Ballistic thrusts its characters in and out of unexplainable and unconnected situations as if creating some sort of kung-fu, dungeon master soap opera, rather than the puff action piece that it is.
So lost and alone, we wander through the movie, scene to scene, attempting to ignore oddly made camera choices which often spend more time filming fully clothed crotches than they do actual faces. When the camera does manage to hit its mark, we’re treated to a plentiful supply of expendable goons, bobbling about with ineffective weaponry and looking for all the world like they’ve been borrowed from the set of Charlton Heston’s Planet of the Apes. Our aptly named Director doesn’t even bother with faces. All except main characters seem to wear masks and we never see the guys inside the cars that get blown to bits. Though occasionally you might hear a muffled old expletive or a scream from a kid as a bus cracks like an egg and slides 10 blocks on its side through the city center strip; Ecks vs Sever remains so distant from the people it kills off, that one wonders why they even exist.
Mixed in is a shadow agency from which Sever has gone rogue. I’m not sure why it’s called shadow; they seem to operate in plain day. With body armor and sirens they don’t do much hiding away. Still they are the bad guys so calling them shadow lets us poor mentally challenged audience members know that they are bad. Sadly, an evil agent played by Star Wars stuntman Ray Park, is the only guy worth watching in the whole gloppy mess. Hard to root for the other side when he’s the only person in the film whom you don’t wish would get whacked.
Ultimately though they even waste Park, who though his martial arts skills are considerable and certainly superior to the kung-fu fighting Lucy Liu, merely struts around holding walkie-talkies until the last five minutes when our good friend Kaos at last let him throw an anti-climactic kick or two. Yet Banderas looks grungy and Liu looks good in leather, so really isn’t that all that should matter?
Not so surprisingly, Ecks vs Sever is exactly what you’d expect from a guy named Kaos and it’s not just because he shoots things up. Look, who says slow motion shots of a babe with big guns just isn’t enough? If you’re going to bother with plot consider one that makes sense. Otherwise just throw the entire ill-conceived script out the window and spend 90 minutes blowing things up. Crack a few jokes, realize you aren’t making some serious uber-spy drama and move on. That might be a tad shallow, but at least down that road someone in your audience could accidentally have some fun.