[box cover]

Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever

For the experienced moviegoer, there are certain warning signs associated with a new film. As shrill as a fire alarm, these signs alert the attentive viewer of dangerously bad cinema. Of course, not all of these are foolproof, but — just the same — it's not a bad checklist either. Here are the warning signs that 2002's Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever gives off:

  • It's a film made by Franchise Pictures (who also did 2000's Driven and Battlefield Earth).
  • It's based on a video game.
  • It's released theatrically in September (notorious for being a studio dumping ground).
  • It's out on video exactly three months later.
  • The DVD release features scant extras (presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen and Dolby Digital 5.1, it only includes a 13-minute featurette and the theatrical trailer).
  • Its running time (sans credits) is less than 90 minutes.
  • Its original title (Ecks Vs. Sever) seems to have been changed because it was too confusing or sounded too much like a court case, but instead of giving it up (thanks to tie-in marketing), the difference was split.
  • It features Gregg Henry as a bad guy, but the film wasn't directed by Brian De Palma.
  • Lucy Liu is good looking for sure, but she hasn't shown anyone that she actually can carry a movie.
  • The director only has one name — here Kaos — who got his break in music videos (a lesson learned from The Cell).
  • A major character is credited as being a master spy, but he's too stupid to realize that his wife didn't die in an explosion he witnessed.
  • Ray "Darth Maul" Park is in the movie — he obviously was hired to fight, but they save his battle for last. This mean's he'll be forced to do some acting.

With twelve strikes to its credit Ballistic would make one hell of a bowling score. Maybe it's unfair to judge the picture by these issues, but it really is as bad as it sounds: Master spy Jerimiah Ecks (Antonio Banderas) squares off against Sever (Lucy Liu) after she kidnaps a major diplomat's son. However, the diplomat (Henry) is the real bad guy, as he was smuggling something across the border through his kid. He also married Ecks' wife (Talisa Soto) after both parties thought the other was dead. It isn't long before Ecks realizes that maybe Sever isn't the bad girl he thought she was. Lots of stuff blows up in between, but that would be interesting only if a) Liu worked the silent-assassin-cool better; b) Banderas wasn't so far above this material; or c) the action scenes were exciting. You're better off picking d), for don't even bother. Snap-case.

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