film review: Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever *

Anyone who has seen an action movie in the last 20 years is going to figure out the plot of Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever in about 15 minutes. Of course the depressed ex-cop will avenge the loss of his family by tracking down their killer. Of course the good guys are going to save the world. Of course the lead actor falls in love at the end.

Ballistic is the least surprising movie of the year. It’s got action, and lots of it. Big explosions, cool guns and a couple of decent fights/chases are all this movie has to offer.

Director Wych Kaosayananda, credited as Kaos, is only in his late 20s, and Ballistic is his first movie made outside of Thailand. He does a good job with the action sequences, but how tired are audiences of watching things getting blown up? Anyone with enough money can go outside and blow up his car (or better yet, his roommate’s) and film it. In the age of special effects-filled action flicks like The Matrix and The One, on-screen effects have sadly lost out to computers.

Ballistic follows in the grand tradition of Good Will Hunting and The Royal Tenenbaums, by giving characters eccentric names to make for an intriguing title. That’s about the only thing in this movie that’s even slightly engaging.

Antonio Banderas has officially moved from Spanish sex symbol to washed-up old guy. His roles in Four Rooms and Desperado have given out to less glorious parts in Spy Kids and Ballistic. In this movie he’s Jeremiah Ecks, a former FBI agent whose family is killed. Predictably, he blames himself and drops out of the agency. Of course, when the world’s at stake, he returns. Does this sound familiar yet?

Lucy Liu of Charlie’s Angels fame plays Agent Sever, an orphan who was adopted and trained by the agency to be the perfect killer. Her fight scenes are far from perfect. Sure she can kick, spin and punch, but she rarely deviates from those basic moves. When Keanu Reeves is more credible as a martial artist than Lucy Liu, something is wrong.

Ballistic focuses the majority of its $70 million budget on visual effects and big action sequences. The script is truly awful, and the acting is nearly as bad, with the exception of a few minor characters. If he had access stronger material for his detonations, Kaos could become a decent action director in the future, but his first attempt at American cinema is undoubtedly a failure.

Shawn Wines can be reached at