All right, that’s it. I’ve positively had it with all the growing sass and scuttlebutt I’ve been hearing over the last several years that the action flick Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever is “the worst” movie of all time or even, according to justly venerated Rotten Tomatoes, the worst movie in recent memory.
First of all, no one bashes a Lucy Liu movie on my watch — Freckles, would you please call a bitch? I got plans! — and second, there are way worse recent movies out there than Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever (and, yes, you may look forward to me referring to the title in full throughout this entry).
As two examples off the top of my head, I consider the recent film adaptation of comic legend Will Eisner’s The Spirit to be legless, personally devastating schlock with virtually unwatchable “acting,” while Shrek the 3rd was so shrill and crassly commercial that I believe my heart has been better warmed by Dr. Pepper ads.
There is a misconception that Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever was based on a videogame of the same name. Scratch that, reverse it. The videogame was based on the original script for the movie, but ended up being released ahead of the film, which had changed considerably over the course of production. A second, sequel videogame was based on the movie, with the events of the game more closely following the movie’s plot. So you can also take Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever off the “worst adaptation” lists.
A point in the film’s defense: Originally, the character of Agent Sever was male. Antonio Banderas, having been cast as Ecks, suggested during the Search for Sever that the studio consider reworking the character as a female. The part went to Lucy Liu. (Out of the park grand slam in my book — gracias, Sr. Banderas.) But here’s the thing: Ecks and Sever do not at any point have sex with each other. Oh, snap! A guns-blazing testerone-filled movie about professional cool-as-shit-spy-people where one of them is a girl and she actually does not get tumbled by the male! Amazing! And they said it could not be done. Booya! I find that fact impressive and surprisingly integritous, considering the cheese that oozes from most of the plotholes in Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever (I will never get tired of writing that full title out).
I will grant you, the dialogue can be bad, although I could say the same for the recent remake of Clash of the Titans, during which Special K and I began predicting, accurately, the next sullen thing Perseus would grumble to whoever he was arguing with at the time.* Particularly galling is a supposedly pensive “learning” moment near the end of the picture when someone says, accurately, of Sever, “She’s a killer,” and Agent Jeremiah Ecks responds severely, “No. She’s a mother.” Hope the families of the some fifty police officers that former-Agent Sever killed in the — surprise, surprise — gratuitously violent opening sequence agree that mom trumps cop.
And yes, it is pretty much shocking that it somehow got past everyone involved in this film’s production that the screenplay has placed operatives for the United States government, fully staffed with offices and everything, in Vancouver, Canada.
The cast is rounded out by some familiar faces, including Ray Park and Miguel Sandoval, pictured above, who do their best with the aforementioned holey script. Although I think even in that screencap Mr. Sandoval (Medium, Bottle Shock) looks kind of embarassed to be there. Talisa Soto is also on the screen, the best I can say for her presence. I would analogize her “performance” to the picture itself: great to look at, as long as you are not of a mood to go digging too deep, which why should you? So relax and enjoy All The Prettiness.
I remember struggling to make sense of this movie while watching it on the big screen (a difficulty I’ve acutely repeated several times over with each of the Pirates of the Caribbean pictures, but they make money so no one bashes them) and, at one point, being surprised it was still on and checking my watch to make sure I hadn’t lost time or something. But I have still reacted far, far more badly to other films, and in the end, having rewatched it here and there (never in toto, I don’t think), I find myself a Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever apologist. I don’t believe the movie tried to be more than what it was — 90 minutes of pretty people with big guns and bigger explosions — and so I don’t think it ought be judged too harshly.
As a final note, the director of this big-budget, technically-demanding action film was only around 27 at the time of its production and had only one other movie to his name. That name is Wych Kaosayananda. In 1998, he’d directed Fah, the most expensive Thai movie of all time, a gory, violent epic which bombed terribly. But it got Hollywood’s attention and in the halcyon days of 2002, he styled himself “Kaos” while shooting this film. Now that you know all that, can you see why it’s really no good to act like this movie was ever intended to be coherent? Just make an amused sad face and slide along!
Lastly, Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever. I just wanted to write it one more time. Thank you!
*e.g.: “Only a god could do what you’ve done.” “I’m not a god. I’m a man,” or some variation of exactly those words. He talked like that to everyone, for two hours. Perseus in the Clash of the Titans remake is a disrespectful and largely ungrateful shit with a chip the size of Crete on his shoulder.
The only person in that script worth a damn is Andromeda, played excellently by Alexa Davalos; when the Kraken was right up in her face and she went limp in the chains I honest-to-god swooned and almost fainted, myself. Good, I might even actually say unmissable, stuff. For those couple minutes. The rest was pretty much filler and garbage. Also, it was not shot in 3-D despite being shown in 3-D in a lot of locales so here’s a tip from E: see C o T in regular projection as its director intended and spare yourself the studio’s shoddy rookery. You’re welcome!