Written by: Big Ross, CC2K Staff Writer
For my April Fools' Week assignment, I was tasked with watching the 2002 action flick Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever. Given that this may be one of the most reviled films ever, with a 0% rating on RottenTomatoes garnered from over 100 reviews and not a single one of them being positive, I decided I should approach this film by trying to capture my reaction to Ballistic: EvS as I experienced it in the moment. And so with notebook and pen in hand I loaded my DVD player (thank you, Netflix) and started watching.
Opening credits – Hmmm. . .Franchise Pictures, never heard of them. That doesn't bode well, does it?
The title "Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever" literally zooms onto the screen. Nice. I hate titles that just boringly appear.
Directed by Kaos? What kind of name is Kaos? Is he (or she?) related to McG? Is there any way that can be a good thing?
Okay, a beautiful, anonymous woman picks up a little boy from the airport. They drive home, where some random guy with a badge shows up and takes the boy (her son) from the woman at the behest of the boy's father, who apparently had the boy (his name is Michael, doesn't really matter) with him in Germany and sent him home to his mother because he was too busy. At least I think that is what's going on. Weird. Mother and son are both oddly not bothered by this. I guess it happens often?
An SUV full of men and the boy are driving down a street at night. Suddenly, cars start exploding all around them! The men get out of the SUV, guns appear in their hands. A mysterious woman shows up, lobs smoke grenades in their direction, and quickly dispatches the 5 or 6 armed men with nothing but some martial arts. How is it she can see perfectly fine through the smoke yet the men are all blundering around as if blind? Wouldn't a smoke grenade affect everyone the same way?
Damn. That little boy is WAY too calm after being taken from his mother, damn near being killed in a fiery explosion, and being kidnapped by the mysterious woman after she just finished dispensing a beat down on all those armed dudes. Maybe he was medicated for the flight over from Germany?
First big star is revealed! The mysterious woman is none other than. . .Lucy Liu!
New scene. Ah, the other half of the "star power" in this film is introduced as we meet Antonio Banderas, looking haggard and grizzled, and for some reason all wet. Why the fuck does he look like he just stepped fully-clothed out of a shower? Anyway, he's sitting at a bar drinking and smoking and looking haggard and grizzled, as I said, which I guess is supposed to tell us about his character.
Two goons enter the bar and try to convince Antonio to come with them, but he refuses. They briefly fight, and Antonio bests them both easily with a lit cigarette in his mouth. I guess that's cool, or something. Enter their boss – he's got a job for Antonio, who is completely disinterested. The boss dangles a carrot, information that proves Antonio's wife, presumed dead for five long years, is actually alive. Antonio stubbornly refuses to listen and walks out of the bar (Where's the bartender, BTW? Other customers? The place is deserted but for Antonio, the goons, and their boss.). It's raining outside, and we're treated to a slow-motion shot of Antonio walking through the deluge (is that why he was all wet? I guess so, but why weren't the goons or their boss wet? I rewind the movie several seconds – nope. Completely dry. And not an umbrella in sight. My head is starting to hurt.) Back to Antonio slow-mo walking through the downpour, trying to look pained, haunted. Now we cut to a scene of an exploding car (also in slow motion) on a clear day. Dramatic music plays. Back to Antonio walking. Back to the exploding car. Back to Antonio walking. And back and forth and back and forth for a full god damned minute. Enough already! Okay. . .it's over. Antonio's back in the bar, he accepts the job, which involves him working for the FBI. Since when does the FBI employ goons?
We check in on LL; she's got the boy in a cage (though he looks perfectly fine with the situation) in some hidden location. Like a . . .hideout.
Now we cut to a new scene, and a new character. Hey! It's the blond masochist-gangster-wannabee from Payback (a quick IMDB search reveals the actor's name as Gregg Henry, not that it matters). He's meeting with one of the men who took the boy, then lost him to LL. Blondie is not happy, and we learn a big reason is because he's the boy's father. He mumbles some garbage about "knights falling on their swords," hands him a gun, and tries to order the guy to shoot himself. The guy almost does it, then turns the gun on Blondie but gets shot by an offscreen gunman before he can fire. Well that seemed a little overly risky, now didn't it? If you're going to kill the guy just get it over with. Did Blondie pull this shit with all of the men who lost the boy? Fuck. Anyway, another henchman mentions that from "their tests" they have 28 hours to get the boy back. Tests? What tests? I just love an arbitrary clock built into action movies, don't you? Really adds to the suspense.
We're back with Antonio. Still looking grizzled? Check. He managed to dry off, though he's still wearing the exact same suit. Something about this fact bothers me. I can't worry about it too much because it's time for debriefing and plot exposition!
TEN MINUTES LATER. . .
Shit. I had to rewind the debriefing scene and watch it a second time, because it didn't make any fucking sense after the first viewing. Okay, Blondie's name is GANT, though I'm going to keep calling him Blondie, and evidently he's the head of a government agency called the DIA, but actually runs some kind of organization of assassins. One of them singled out is Ross, codenamed the Angel of Death (yeah, that's original) and played by Ray Park (!). Turns out the Germans (it's always the Germans, isn't it?) developed some kind of nano-robot-assassin-thing and FBI Boss (the guy who promised Antonio info on his dead wife) is convinced Ross stole it for Blondie. LL kidnapped Blondie's son, and FBI Boss wants Antonio to find LL. What the fuck she has to do with FBI Boss's desire to take down Blondie is completely beyond me at this point. There was also some shit about shadow governments in there that made no fucking sense, but I'm ignoring it. It's better if I ignore it.
Back to LL at an outdoor mall/market. Uh oh, here come Ross and a team of masked commandos to abduct her. The key here is they need her alive, so she can tell them where the boy is. I've got a feeling this isn't going to end well for them.
And I was right! That didn't work at all! Mass panic! The cops show up! LL's so bad ass she's taking on the commandos AND the police.
Abrupt cut from the action to Antonio and Random FBI Guy sitting in a car. They make small talk. Antonio self-medicates; it's obvious he does this a lot. Random FBI Guy asks if that's why they call him Ecks. Or is it "X"? Either way, I don't fucking get it. Antonio replies that he's on a diet. This makes even less sense, if that is possible. A dispatcher calls for backup: shots fired, female suspect. Antonio quips, "That's her." What the fuck do you mean, "That's her"? Assuming for a second Antonio could somehow know this, THAT was your brilliant plan to catch LL? Sit around and wait for the bad guys to try and get her? Fuck. I'm starting to get worried. This crap is so bad it might result in a permanent brain injury.
Back to LL. She's got herself an M16 with a grenade launcher attached to it (like Arnie sported in Predator), and fires a grenade at a sniper perched on a rooftop. A surprisingly weak explosion follows (I thought the explosions were supposed to be this film's strong suit?), and the sniper is blown off the roof. A long, unnecessary tracking shot of him falling onto a police car follows. What the fuck was the point of that? Back to LL, she's abandoned her automatic rifle in favor of two police batons, which she uses to take on five commandos armed with machine guns. Fast paced techno music! Martial arts action! Shit. She looks just like Keanu Reeves fighting the rogue programs near the end of The Matrix Reloaded, down to the long overcoat, sunglasses, and blank expression. Wait- what's that? The Matrix Reloaded came out a year AFTER Ballistic: EvS? Damn. I don't know who should feel worse about that.
Damn it BR! This is no time to let your mind wander (but it's so easy). Back to the action! And lo and behold! A mounted M60 machine gun! LL goes all Rambo on EVERYBODY. Slow motion gunfire! Slow motion explosions! Everything looks better in slow motion! Sounds better! Lucy Liu is UNSTOPPABLE.
Rhetorical Question: Ross wanted her alive, so why couldn't somebody just shoot her in the kneecaps? Damnit! Focus. This is no time for practical questions.
Antonio arrives too late. FBI Boss chats with Ross. What? These two are civil towards each other? WTF? Antonio looks at the carnage for about five seconds and suddenly "has a feeling" that LL is not finished yet. Everyone needs to evacuate because she is going to "retaliate." What? Retaliate for what?!! She just kicked everyone's ass in a three-block radius without breaking a sweat!
LL is back and shoots FBI Boss! Why the fuck did she do that? She runs! FBI Boss tells Antonio that LL knows where his wife is. Added motivation for Antonio! He gives chase! LL steals a car, hits Antonio at what appears to be 40+ mph. Antonio shrugs it off and shoots out her tire, causing her car to roll. LL shrugs that off and it's back to a foot chase. The pain in my head increases.
Antonio has a shotgun, loads it. He's got her in his sights and pumps the shotgun. WTF? Dude, you just loaded that thing. LL warns him that if he kills her, he'll never find the boy. Antonio responds by saying he doesn't care about the boy, he just wants his wife. LL doesn't find this odd in the least. Oops, Antonio gets distracted and LL gets away. He catches her on a rooftop, fires a warning shot, and decides to discard his shotgun and close in on her drawing a pistol. How fucking stupid is this guy? More martial arts fighting! Antonio is quickly disarmed and clearly outmatched. More commandos with machine guns show up on a neighboring rooftop. I don't know how they tracked Antonio and LL here. Doesn't matter. Ross instructs them via radio that they should not let Antonio and LL kill each other. So to accomplish this the commandos. . .start randomly firing bullets in their direction? Fucking shit. In what Bizarro parallel universe does that seem like a viable option? But of course, it works. LL gets away.
Aaah! My brain! How much more can I endure? Okay, LL does some research back at her hideout, and she discovers Blondie used his own son to smuggle the nano-deathbot out of Germany by injecting him with it. So THAT'S why the evil bastard wants him back so badly. Antonio does some research and discovers that LL had a husband and son of her own that Blondie had killed because having a family violated some arbitrary rule for his assassins. So THAT'S why she kidnapped Blondie's kid. She's out for revenge. But if that's the case, does that make LL one of the good guys? Can't be. She was indiscriminately killing police and bystanders and shot FBI Boss.
FuckFuckFuck! This movie doesn't make any sense! Authorites show up and arrest Antonio for the attempted murder of FBI Boss. What?! Antonio wasn't anywhere near him when he got shot! And there was a crowd of at least 30 people who could testify to seeing LL shoot FBI Boss!
Antonio is being transferred on a police bus. A bus?! To move one guy? Really? LL shows up – how'd she know where he'd be? – and shoots the bus with a rocket launcher. Is she trying to free him or kill him? The bus overturns. LL shoots it with another rocket. It skids down the highway, and Antonio defies the laws of physics to escape to the top of the bus and ride it like a giant surfboard. Gawd, this movie really puts the "mindless" in mindless action. Time for a motorcycle chase! Antonio chases LL! The police chase Antonio and/or LL! Honestly I can't tell which.
Time for a pop quiz! You are in a Jeep Grand Cherokee approaching (at a high rate of speed) a fugitive deemed armed and extremely dangerous standing in the middle of a parking lot. You see she is holding a grenade launcher, and she slowly raises and points it at you. Do you:
A) Swerve off to one side to avoid her and her grenade launcher?
B) Slam your foot on the gas to run her down before she has a chance to shoot?
C) Curse loudly, slam on the brakes, put the car in reverse, and attempt to back up (in a straight line), providing an easy target?
If you chose (C), congratulations! You made the same asinine choice as a nameless, faceless, witless extra in a crappy action movie.
Argh! This shit is so ridiculous, does anyone know if you can self-induce a seizure? I think that would be preferable. Antonio just slammed into a car while riding his motorcycle, got launched off of it and into the air, flew 15-20 yards, landed on his feet and did a cute tuck & roll and came away with little more than a scratch. After all of that, LL informs Antonio where he can find his wife: with Blondie!
Fucking mindfuck shit! I think 10% of my viable brain cells just apoptosed. Yeah, they fucking committed cell-suicide due to what transpired onscreen. So this whole time Antonio has believed his wife was dead – killed in an exploding car. This whole time Antonio's wife has thought that HE WAS DEAD – also killed in an exploding car. This was all the work of Blondie, who for barely explained reasons wanted Antonio's wife. So he fakes both of their deaths, making each of them believe the other is dead, so he can move in on Antonio's wife. This makes absolutely NO SENSE. How the fuck was this charade carried out? And Blondie has proven how powerful he is – why wouldn't he just kill Antonio for real and be done with it? And even more neuron-killing ridiculousness unfolds. One of Blondie's henchmen informs him that LL helped Antonio escape from the police – where Blondie had him placed by framing him for the attempt on FBI Boss to "keep him out of the way," which I'll go ahead and point out would be completely unnecessary had Blondie killed him in the first place – and Blondie actually asks in bewilderment "What does she want with him?" Let me see if I have this straight, the woman whose family you killed is apparently helping the man whose wife you made him believe dead so you could shack up with, and it doesn't occur to you they might team up to exact revenge on you? Fuck. This is why my precious brain cells ARE KILLING THEMSELVES.
Okay, must soldier on to the end. Getting back on track (minus some gray matter) after Antonio and his wife are reunited (in a scene completely devoid of any of the emotional impact that you might expect from a husband and wife who've believed each other dead for 5 years actually discovering the other is alive and well and right the fuck in front of them) they team up with LL (she's really one of the good guys). Oh, and did I mention that the boy isn't Blondie's son, but actually Antonio's? Escalating stakes baby!
Sidenote: Antonio's wife is played by Talisa Soto (a Puerto Rican actress and former Bond girl from License to Kill) yet their son is as white as Wonder Bread. How the hell the genetics of that are supposed to work, I have no clue. And I'm a biologist!
Anyway, LL takes Antonio, wife, and their strangely Caucasian son to her hideout, Blondie and his commando/assassins follow, and Blondie FINALLY gives the order to kill LL on sight, trusting Antonio to keep his wife and son alive long enough to retrieve the nano-deathbot. Literally within seconds of saying this, Blondie proceeds to have a conversation with LL via radio while she stands UNARMED and IN PLAIN SIGHT. Where the fuck is a sniper? Why isn't anyway shooting her?! LL is pissed Blondie killed her family – they were innocent. In response Blondie offers this gem of wisdom: "They are no innocent people, you know that. Only killers and victims." Uggh – more dead brain cells.
Enough talk! More soul-raping action!
What follows is a crescendo of fiery explosions and conflagrations. I count a total of 5 of these, which result in a grand total of 0 casualties. Not very effective, especially considering that Antonio and LL remote detonate 3 of them, and only had to wait a few more seconds for maximum lethality. But then we wouldn't get the cat and mouse shenanigans that follow, would we?
Big, dramatic confrontation between Blondie and Antonio. Antonio keeps calling Blondie "Agent Clark." Asks him why he did it. Blondie's explanation is that Agent Clark had to die to make room for Gant (Blondie's new identity). Evidently, in addition to faking Antonio and his wife's deaths, he also faked his own. Jesus-tapping-dancing-Christ! Stop killing my neurons you shit turd of a movie! But Ballistic: EvS is relentless in its quest to render viewers brain dead. Antonio just got crushed by a dozen or more very large, very heavy looking steel pipes. Not to worry, I'm sure he'll brush it off. And he does! Aaah!
Cut to inside LL's hideout; time for the highly choreographed martial arts battle between Ray Park, LL, and LL's stunt double. Damn it, don't let her bitch slap you around like that Ray! You were Darth Maul for Crom's sake!
Big Finish! Blondie finds Antonio's wife and milky-white son, Antonio finds all three and allows Blondie to scan his son for the implanted killer nanobot. But surprise, surprise! It's not in the boy! Cue (non-) dramatic entrance of LL. With a bewlidering send off from Antonio: "She's going to kill you. Good luck." LL discards martial arts and automatic weapons for a bit of painfully predictable poetic justice, opting to kill Blondie by shooting him with a dart carrying the microscopic Terminator.
Sidenote: This thing is billed as the perfect assassin. Yet if you're going to deliver it via a dart gun, it will be obvious the dart is responsible for the victim's death, and you'd be better off just using a traditional firearm. If you truly want to be subtle, you're still going to have to get close enough to your intended target to inject them with it. Is that really feasible? Regardless, this nano-deathbot is apparently a prototype incapable of being copied, else why wouldn't Blondie just steal the blueprints and build more, but considering he didn't and assuming he can't copy it, how the fuck are you supposed to get it out of your victim to use it more than once?
Oh fuck me. It happened. Stroke. Whole left side numb. . .paralyzed. Damn you Antonio Banderas. . .damn you Lucy Liu. . .
TWO WEEKS LATER. . .
The rehab is going well. The doctor's tell me my recovery is astonishing. I can walk again, and I've regained 85% functionality in my left arm and leg (good thing I'm a righty). I still drool uncontrollably on occasion, and the doctors tell me the short-term memory loss and precipitous drop in my IQ are most likely permanent – there were just too many brain cells killed from viewing the movie. That damn movie. Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever. Gawd, I look back on it now, and even the title doesn't make any sense. It's not Ecks vs. Sever; it should be Ballistic: Ecks & Sever vs. Blondie. But really, besides all the gunfire in this movie, does "ballistic" even make sense as a title? And this is where Kaos gets the last life. This is where he (or she?) stands over my fetally contorted body wracked with sobs over my destroyed mental faculties cackling like The Joker, because I looked up the definition of "ballistic" and there, below the entries pertaining to the dynamics of projectiles, I see this:
go ballistic, Informal. to become overwrought or irrational.
blow a gasket, blow one's mind, blow one's stack, blow one's top, crack up, fly off the handle, freak out, go ape, flip out, go berserk, go crazy, go haywire, go nuts, go off the deep end, hit the ceiling, lose control of oneself, lose it, lose one's composure, lose one's temper, lose one's mind
Check and mate, eh Kaos? Congratulations. You've done the seemingly impossible. You have created a movie so unbelievably shitty, so inconceivably, appallingly repulsive, so devoid of logic and sense that to watch it incurs irreparable harm to one's central nervous system. I have only two words.