Monday, May 30, 2011

Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever

Why do I do this to myself?  Sure, I have a healthy interest in movies that are so bad they're good (I call them Lefty Gold), but sometimes I knowingly just put my mind in harm's way.  Case in point: Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever. I had heard that the movie was supposed to be bad, but when I found out that it had a 0% critical rating on Rotten Tomatoes, I was shocked; even Battlefield Earth earned a 2% "rotten" rating.  Zero percent is virtually unheard of.  Maybe I just had to see it to believe it, or maybe I'm just a sucker for pain, but I chose to dive into B:EvS all by my lonesome.

If you are fortunate enough to have avoided this movie so far, here's the trailer to give you an idea of what I was working with:



This is one of those movies where the less you pay attention to the plot, the faster the nosebleeds will stop.  For reasons that are left unexplained for a while, Sever (Lucy Liu) takes it upon herself to kidnap the son of Robert Gant (Gregg Henry), the director of the DIA (which is apparently a real government agency).  As the son of a prominent military intelligence man, the kid was pretty well-guarded.  Not that it matters to Sever; she just waltzes right in and pulls some some serious Keanu Matrix shit, and suddenly, the guards are all down.  And by "Matrix shit," I mean the sequels.  Basically, she wore sunglasses at night and a long leather (hooded) trench coat while she beat up some guys who treated her like she was the damn bogeyman and not just a moderately athletic actress. 
Because trenches are made for hand-to-hand combat.

To find the boy, the FBI digs into its "super awesome former agents that can easily be talked into rejoining" files and finds Ecks (Antonio Banderas), who is busy drinking, smoking, and growing stubble at a nearby bar.  Two agents try to strong-arm him, he predictably beats their asses despite being theoretically drunk and out of practice, and he agrees to find Sever and the boy.  Why?  Apparently, Ecks' boss (Miguel Sandoval) has information on the death of Ecks' wife --- who might not really be dead!  Gasp!  I hope he's not playing with Ecks' emotions, because I can tell from his three minutes of screen time so far that Ecks is still hurting from her presumably untimely end!  So, Ecks is chasing after Sever with some FBI guys while the DIA team (led by Ray Park, who was totally third-billed in the movie and not wearing extensive makeup for a change) tries to reach her first.

From that synopsis, you might have noticed that the microscopic killer robot isn't as prevalent in the story as it is in the preview.  That's kind of odd, right?  Well, that's because it appears in the scene shown in the trailer and then again at the end.  And no, the robot thing is not called "Ballistic."  In fact, there is no reason at all for this movie to have "Ballistic" in the title.  Furthermore, aside from their initial meet-and-greet fight, Ecks and Sever are allies.  Their one fight is about as exciting as you might imagine, though:
It looks like he's going to puke from being tickled too much.
This is a movie where every character mentions that Ecks and Sever are the best at everything, as long as it's deadly.  Naturally, the film builds up to their painfully choreographed fight scene.  The result is...well, less than thrilling.  I never thought I would say this, but it made me look back on the hand-to-hand combat scenes from The Hunted --- where Benicio Del Toro and Tommy Lee Jones scuffle around for half an hour in an uncomfortable man-hug --- and think "not bad."  The Ecks vs. Sever fight (the only time the "Ecks vs. Sever" subtitle is actually appropriate) is so slow and awkward that I wouldn't be surprised if the stunt coordinator was audibly shouting instructions just below the blaring soundtrack.

Okay, fine.  The title of the movie is pretty awful.  What about the acting?  Honestly, it's a little hard to judge.  The script is atrocious, definitely one of the worst major motion picture scripts to have been made into an actual movie in the past decade, so that should be taken into consideration when judging the actors.  Even with that in mind, I'm going to give the cast a universal thumbs down.  Or up.  Whichever one means they all die by Roman gladiator.  Antonio Banderas, even with his sexy cartoon bee voice, is out of his element here.
Nason-Ecks?
When Banderas is in his comfort zone (giving a smoldering glare at the camera and speaking heavily accented English), he is a decent actor.  Here, he is asked to look tired, haggard, and be an incredible bad-ass.  It doesn't work to his strengths.  Lucy Liu is better known for her semi-comedic roles than her dramatic chops, and this movie is completely without humor.  As for her action movie skills, she was definitely on par with Angela Lansbury in this one.  Miguel Sandoval just looked bored with his lines and Gregg Henry turned in one of the most MWA-HA-HA evil performances I have ever seen in a movie that did not involve world destruction.  I wouldn't say that Ray Park's performance was good, but he is definitely the only person in the cast that can pull off a convincing fight sequence.  Talisa Soto and Terry Chen also lend their charisma-free talents to this film.

Dull, uninspired acting isn't always the cast's fault; the director usually has a share in the blame.  And the first sign that this film's director should be blamed?  Wych Kaosayananda calls himself as "KAOS" in the credits.  And all this time, you thought McG was the most obnoxious director name.  Kaosayanandahas has no subtlety or any sort of rapport with his actors, or else we might have actually seen human emotions in this piece of crap.  I'm guessing that he is supposed to be more of an action director than anything else, since this is allegedly an action movie, but this is one of the worst uses of $70 million I have ever seen.  And that's taking Dragon Wars: D-War into consideration.  Nothing looks good in this film.  Nothing.  In fact, this movie was directed so poorly (and flopped so badly) that KAOS hasn't directed a movie since.  And when you consider how M. Night Shyamalan keeps getting work, that is saying something.

Okay, so this might sound like just an uninspired movie, and not a truly awful one.  Don't be deceived like I was.  This is a bad, bad movie, and it's so incompetent that it's not even fun to ridicule.  Why?  For starters,the movie takes place in Canada.  Unless I'm greatly mistaken, the FBI doesn't operate on foreign soil.  And yet, they form a "trans-national strikeforce" to track down Sever.  How did that get past a copy editor?  And it apparently never occurred to anyone that the Canadian police, armed forces, intelligence community, or the damn Mounties might show up and say "Hey, what's all this aboot you fellas destroying thirty city blocks up here?"  Seriously, they blow up a lot of shit in this movie (without any noticeable fatalities) and leave about a hundred FBI and DIA agents dead on the streets of Vancouver, and there isn't one Canadian cop in this movie.

Pictured: no injuries.

The worst part about all that action is that it's not entertaining.  At all.  Liu and Banderas are uncomfortable (at best) in their action scenes and the best scene (Liu vs. Park) still sucks.  Ray Park is an awesome stuntman, and he looks good in this, his only fight scene in the movie (just another reason this movie is stupid), as long as the action is being shown in real time.  Unfortunately, to make Liu's moves look any good, the scene is shown in slow motion, which just makes Park look incompetent when he doesn't hit her.  There is a lot of hand-to-hand combat in this movie, and that's the best scene.  Even the shoot-em-up scenes are boring and stupid.  If the DIA needs Liu alive to find the boy, why are they using live ammunition on her, including a turret gun and snipers?  And wouldn't snipers be smart enough to take cover when somebody's shooting at them?  Not in this movie, my friends.

And what about the DIA?  In this movie, they're like a rogue CIA offshoot at best, and a bunch of assholes at worst.  Why does anyone want to be in the DIA?  They're filled with men who are cannon fodder to Lucy-freaking-Liu and specialize in twitching after they get shot.  And do you know what happens when they botch a job?  They are encouraged to commit suicide.  That's right, a government agency with a government pension plan is supposed to have its members kill themselves if they screw up.  I'm not buying into that.

To top it all off, the super secret and undoubtedly expensive killer microscopic robot is the stupidest spy weapon I have ever heard of.  And that's saying quite a bit, because I have seen all the Roger Moore Bond movies.  Let's just say that having a microscopic robotic killer that you can inject into your enemy is a good idea, okay?  If that's the case, wouldn't it take millions of dollars to make each mini-bot?  And then what?  You just leave it in the corpse after you use it to kill?  That's not terribly economical.  "But these things would be untraceable, Brian!"  Actually, they wouldn't be, since the DIA performed a thermal scan (for a microscopic robot?) at the airport to prove that the mini-bot hadn't been taken aboard any planes.  So, it is detectable, if you know what to look for.  And since you still need to inject it into your target, that means you either need to stick them with a syringe or hit them with a blow dart for it to enter the bloodstream.  At that point, wouldn't it be just as easy and a few million dollars cheaper to just use poison?
Available for kids parties, Bar Mitzvahs, and assassinations.

What I'm trying to tell you is that this is a film abomination.  It has no redeeming value, not as a target of ridicule or even as a beer coaster.

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