Warner Bros. // 2002 // 91 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // December 10th, 2002
Your most dangerous enemies are the friends you've double-crossed.
There is no doubt in my mind that, if there were an award for the most horrendously titled film, Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever would make a clean sweep. My guess is that whoever came up with that title is now living off food stamps and sleeping under a cardboard box in an alley. Released with little fanfare, Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever died a quick death at the box office upon its initial release. Resurrected on DVD, fans can now see what all the non-hoopla was about with the release of Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever care of Warner Home Entertainment.
Ecks (Banderas) is a washed-up former FBI agent who spends his time drinking at a local bar and mourning the loss of his deceased wife. Sever (Liu) is a lethal ex-agent for the Defense Intelligence Agency who has lost her child in an attack. Both of these agents have a common enemy in Gant (Gregg Henry, Payback), a ruthless DIA agent who is married to a beautiful Rayne (Talisa Soto, Pinero). Gant has two problems: his only child has been kidnapped by Sever, and a miniature stolen secret weapon that is small enough to fit inside a person's artery undetected has been lost. When Ecks finds out that his wife may still be alive, he scrambles in a desperate attempt to find her (and at the same time is drafted back into the FBI for...oh, but let's not spoil it). Sever is attempting to extract revenge upon Gant who was responsible for killing her child. Soon the sparks will fly as Ecks and Sever lock horns in a barrage of bombs and explosions!
Marshmallows are like Thanksgiving dinner when compared to Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever. The movie is so fluffy, so insubstantial, that it baffles the mind as to how it was produced. I can't image that the script truly grabbed anyone from the get go -- the plot (what there is of it) stands as a milestone of rehash banality. The dialogue, in seemingly inaudible whispers and grunts, is cobbled together from various other action movies from the past 20 years. Even the action seems like redundancy; there are only so many times you can watch people fight in an abandoned warehouse before you begin to wonder how many abandoned warehouses there really are out there (complete with lots of sputtering flames and treacherous walkways). The film was directed by a guy named Kaos, and I can't think of a more appropriate way to describe this mess.
And yet (oh come on, it's me -- there had to be an "and yet"), I enjoyed this movie. It's a stupid, silly little action flick that features a bus being blown up, rolled down a street, and split in two. How can you not have just a little empathy for a movie that throws in that kind of stunt, yet couldn't get the plot across with a teleprompter and a linguistics coach? In between the confusing exposition is wall to wall action with everyone ducking for cover. Explosions, gunfire, martial arts stunts, rocket launchers...Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever is a movie that doesn't know how to quit. It's a good thing the producers have filled it with so much mayhem; between the paper thin characters and endlessly confusing plot, Ecks vs. Sever needed something to make it halfway tolerable (hey, what do you expect from the writer of not only Halloween 4: The Return Of Michael Myers but also Left Behind?)
I have no idea how Lucy Liu and Antonio Banderas got wrangled into making this flick. Liu spends the entire film in dark, skintight clothes saying as little as possible. Banderas sports three-day old facial hair and a messy mop top, whispering all his lines at an inaudible level. Their characters are given little in the way of depth -- Ecks is looking for his wife and Sever is looking for revenge. That's about all we're given, and about all we need to know. There are other supporting actors, but who cares? Aside of a few recognizable faces (Ray Park of X-Men fame), they're all fodder for the action cannon.
I realize that I am hanging out with the minority on this one. After looking over at rottentomatoes.com, I discovered that Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever didn't receive a single solitary positive review. Nada. From 1 to 100 on the Rotten Tomato scale, the film was given an unqualified zero. I alone am the man who will stand up for the downtrodden and dispossessed movie. I will cradle in my arms the one film that no one wanted to see, and those who did see it wanted it banished from their memories. Ecks vs. Sever is mindless fun -- nothing more, and nothing less.
Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Hey, you may hate the movie, but you certainly won't hate this transfer. Sporting solid colors and dark black levels, this picture is in pristine shape. Aside of a small amount of edge enhancement in one scene, I thought Warner did a very nice job on a movie that no one really cares about.
The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround in English and French. The mix here is generally what you'd expect from a movie with the word "Ballistic" in the title: loud, frantic, and very bombastic. There are a ton of surround sounds and directional effects to be found through both the front and rear speakers, making this a very rollicking mix. All aspects of the soundtrack are free and clear of any hiss or distortion. Also included on this disc are English, French, and Spanish subtitles.
Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever is packed full of extra features. Spread across three DVDs, this set features hours of outtakes, commentaries...HA! Just kidding! Do you actually think anyone would want to watch sixteen hours of bonus materials on Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever? I think not. What fans do get is an HBO First Look featurette titled "The Making of Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever" that features interviews with stars Banderas and Liu, plus director Kaos discussing what his goals were for the film (and judging by the critical reaction, he didn't pull 'em off). The "Know Your Enemy" challenge is a funny little game where you pick your agent (Ecks or Sever), pick your move (punch, kick, et cetera), and see if you can't defeat the other guy. It's a silly little time waster, but an enjoyable one nonetheless.
Finally, there is a theatrical trailer for the film, as well as a few star/director/writer film highlights.
Contrary to what seems to be popular belief, Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever is not the worst action movie of the year. While it doesn't have an original bone in its cinematic body, it does clock in at a short 91 minutes and features a lot of things being blown up real good. In other words, pure male testosterone. And Lucy Liu in leather to boot. Warner's work on this disc is probably better than the film deserved.
Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever is found guilty of being unoriginal, but set free on bail due to its entertaining nature. Case adjourned!
Review content copyright © 2002 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
Running Time: 91 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* "Know Your Enemy" Challenge
* "The Making of Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever" Featurette
* Cast/Director/Writer Highlights
* Theatrical Trailer
* Official Site