Reed’s Bargain Bin: Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever

bbecksvssever

Reed’s Bargain Bin is a recurring column where Reed Farrington tells us about a movie he bought for under $5, and whether or not he regrets the purchase.

“Blowed ‘em up good, blowed ‘em up real good!” If Big Jim McBob and Billy Sol Hurok from SCTV’s Farm Film Report had been on Rotten Tomatoes’ (RT) staff, then there’s no way that Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever (BEVS) would ever be in the list of RT’s worst movies of the past decade. So, in the opinion of Reed Farrington, does this movie deserve to be at the top of that list?

Well, that “worst of” list was the impetus I needed to finish watching this film that had been sitting in my stockpile for the past three years. I hadn’t realized that I had watched all of it up to the last ten minutes. Perhaps this is indicative of how bad BEVS is, but I also have movies like The Lord of the Rings that I haven’t finished watching either. And some people seem to think LOTR is good.

I get the impression that the title of BEVS is the main reason why this movie got placed at the top of the list. People seem to think it’s a silly title. I think the title gives some indication that the tone of the movie is comic book-like. And the word “ballistic” in the title is really appropriate given the amount of artillery that we see used in the movie.

The plot is not terribly original. Basically, a woman secret agent named Sever (Lucy Liu) seeks revenge against a former boss, Robert Gant (Gregg Henry), gone bad. An FBI agent named Ecks (Antonio Banderas) is brought in to investigate Gant’s involvement with the destruction of a research facility creating assassin nanobots. As you might have guessed from the title of this movie, Ecks has some confrontations with Sever. The movie does avoid some clichés. I thought for sure that the Asian buddy cop with a young daughter was going to bite the bullet, so to speak. However, this movie does have Ecks walking towards the camera slowly from an explosion in the background.

I thought Banderas does a nice job with his character. His use of a shotgun is pretty cool. The movie is somewhat lacking in humor, but there’s an amusing scene that Banderas pulls off really well. He’s sitting in a room with a cop’s young daughter who shyly doesn’t say anything. I’ll leave it at that.

During the development of this movie, Sever was going to be male. When it was decided that making her female might be more interesting, it was actually Banderas who suggested Lucy Liu for the part. I like that these two agents have a respect for each other that doesn’t result in them ending up in bed with one another.

You might know the bad guy, Gregg Henry. He’s a character actor who has worked steadily since the mid ’70s to the present. Looking at his list of credits, I’m not sure which role he’s the best known for. I happen to have his autograph. Why, you might ask? Because I know him from his role as Gallatin, a member of the Son’a race from Star Trek: Insurrection. (I got his autograph from a box of collecting cards for Insurrection.) He plays a typical bad guy in this movie.

The movie is directed by Kaos (short for Kaosayananda). Given the pretentiousness of his name, I think this is another reason why people would tend to dislike this film. From the “making of” documentary, Kaos appeared to be a young Asian guy. By young, I mean early 20s. (I did some research. Turns out he was 28 when he made BEVS.) It seems he got the job directing BEVS based on a heist film, Fah, that he had made in Thailand. Fah may have been popular in Thailand, but it has a low rating on IMDb. Interestingly, IMDb doesn’t list any directing credits for Kaos after BEVS. Maybe I should feature Kaos in a new installment of my series on why Asian directors fail in Hollywood.

The movie was written by Alan McElroy who wrote Spawn. I admit Spawn was pretty terrible. McElroy is still writing movies like Wrong Turn and its sequel.

To the filmmakers’ credit, the city of Vancouver is actually used as the city of Vancouver rather than an American city. The movie does make good use of locations. Aerial views of the city streets and panoramic shots of the surrounding mountains highlight the beauty of the area.

There are some nicely photographed scenes. There’s a slow-motion scene of Ecks smoking and walking in the rain. The scenes at Vancouver Aquarium where Ecks rendezvous with his wife were beautifully done.

bargainbinballistic

The action is competently choreographed and shot. The fighting doesn’t get too boring and Antonio Banderas and Lucy Liu handle the fight scenes well. Banderas and Liu tried to handle as much of the stunt work as possible. I could not tell when a stunt double was used. During a motorcycle and car chase, Banderas can be definitely recognized riding the motorcycle. In another sequence, Banderas runs through a bunch of explosions with shrapnel clearly being blown into his face. I don’t see how this could be safe to do. There is a climactic battle between Sever and a henchman played by Ray Park. Since Ray Park has a background in fighting skills (he played Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace), then I’m guessing he didn’t need a fight double.

The stunts are nicely done with nothing fake looking. There’s a nice stunt scene with the camera looking down and following a guy as he falls from several stories up onto the top of a cop car. We actually see the impact of the guy with the car as its roof caves in and the windows blow out. Later on, there’s a nice double car twist in the air with the cars flying over a stunt person.

No one reading this probably knows who an actress named Sandrine Holt is. She was a lead character on a John Woo television series back in the late ’90s called Once a Thief. Anyway, she appears in a non-speaking role for less than thirty seconds in the movie, and yet, she managed to get an actor credit in the opening movie titles. Her agent deserves to get some credit for arranging that. Unfortunately, I doubt she would want this notorious movie in her acting credits.

So what are some reasons for why this movie is considered to be so bad? The movie’s duration is under an hour and a half, so it moves along at an adequate pace. There are some plot developments that may seem outlandish. Some might question how Sever is able to defeat armies of people with weapons. Some might also question why she does certain things in the movie if her sole motive is to get revenge on Gant. But I think the ending is appropriate and explains why she did the things she did.

I admit that the dialog is less than sparkling, but this is the case for most movies, I think. There are occasional exchanges and lines that I guess are so “bad” that they’re “good”:

Ecks: Where did you get all the ordnance from?
Sever: Some women like to collect shoes.

Cop: Where’s the mysterious killer?
Ecks: She’s not a killer.
Cop: Then what is she.
Ecks: She’s a mother.

Cop (speaking to Ecks): My daughter asked me why you look so sad. I told her that you got beaten up by a girl.

I think there are many films that are pretty bland and that would not generate a single RT fresh review. For BEVS, I can sort of believe that out of 107 reviews on RT, none were fresh. Richard Reid of the Northwest Cable News is obviously not included among the 107 reviewers because he is quoted on the BEVS’s DVD cover as saying, “Smart, lethal and sexy. One hell of a wild ride!” (Yeah, I know. Sometimes these blurbs are made up.) I did read over some of the reviews and I did think the criticisms were exaggeratedly harsh. The Critics Consensus summary for the film is undeserved. “A startlingly inept film”? I don’t think so. I wouldn’t recommend BEVS to anyone, but I enjoyed watching it.

Based on the ending of the movie, I’m going to advance a theory that I’m going to claim credit for and that answers why Sever is so hard to kill. Sever is a replicant.

Amount I paid: $1.99.
Bargain bin rating: $2.50.

Around the Web:



  • BigHungry

    Nice review Reed.
    According to Rotten Tomatoes
    http://www.rottentomatoes.com/guides/worst_of_the_worst/10/
    This is the worst reviewed movie in the last 10 years… not sure if I would place it there or not. Oh and In my opinion LOTR is not good it is great…. I would like you to review those in the future for the extended cuts and say how much you would pay for them..

  • Goon

    I haven’t seen BEVS but I could tend to agree that the name gets it more negative attention then it would otherwise if it were just called “Ballistic”

  • Sean, would you fix some typos in the review title, please? “Ballistic” is missing the ‘i’ and “vs.” should have the ‘.’ on the end, I believe. Thx.

    I probably shouldn’t get into a discussion about LOTR here, but LOTR is one of those movies like the latest Star Trek in which its popularity with the general public leaves me dumbfounded. I suppose my dislike of the LOTR novels may have something to do with my dislike of the films. For some reason, I just can’t empathize with the characters. The films put me to sleep. Grandiose visual effects tend to bore me when I don’t care about what I’m looking at.

    BTW, BigHungry, I think I paid $19.99 for each of the LOTR box sets with the sculptures, brand new. So they wouldn’t qualify to be reviewed under Reed’s Bargain Bin.

  • David Wilson

    Nice review Reed. The movie certainly doesn’t look good, but I doubt it’s the worst film of the last ten years.

    RT just needs to create their own scale, so reviewers can log in and grade according to a universal scale.

  • I’ve seen BEVS and found it entertaining enough. It’s not high art, but then – its not supposed to be. Certainly not the worst film of the decade. Norbit anyone?

  • Duke Togo

    I remember this film having bad laughable action scenes, that was my major gripe, if the action is spectacular I can sometimes overlook bad acting or dialogue, if the action isn’t there then that kills the entire movie for me.

  • RaphNL

    I remember the GBA game for this which was pretty good back then.

  • The Rock

    I appreciate the SCTV reference.

  • I second the SCTV appreciation.

  • kris

    no more bargins?

  • kris, thx for reading my reviews. I’ve been picking up bargains here and there, but the majority of the bargains that I pick up would probably be of little interest to most Film Junk readers. I need to be inspired to write a review, and frankly, reader response to my opinions has been tepid.

    Some weeks ago, I picked up The Dark Knight for $3.33, and I thought it would be interesting to offer my opinion on this widely acclaimed film. Sean seemed to think I should be reviewing more obscure films, so I decided not to go ahead.

    At one point, I was going to review another $3.33 film (“All the Real Girls”), because Jay liked it a lot, and I found it to be dull. But I hate writing bad reviews, and I lost interest in writing the review.

    I recently picked up a bunch of $1.11 films that included “United 93.”

    But I guess I’ve been watching more television shows than films recently. The season sets for Battlestar Galactica were on sale for $19.99. I picked up Seasons One and Three. Previously, I had only seen the pilot and a handful of episodes. Now I know why the show has gotten so much acclaim. I’m a fan now.

  • I would like to see more in-depth Reedesque review of Battlestar Galactic. I’d like to read your thoughts on sci fi TV over the years, how its changed, screwed up, patterns, and your wants and desires. You could also probably give me some insight on the difference between western and eastern myth making.

  • oh and on, “The Dark Knight for $3.33″ you have to give it four stars – all that storytelling and movie making for $3.33, come on its in the bag!

    Reed with your patience you should become one of those snipers that wait for days in hiding for there target!

  • oh and on, “The Dark Knight for $3.33″ you have to give it four stars – all that storytelling and movie making for $3.33, come on its in the bag!

    Reed with your patience you should become one of those snipers that wait for days in hiding for their target!

  • rus, in some respects, The Dark Knight was awesome for me, but like Spider-Man 2, there were aspects that knocked the movie down the scale for me. I still think the Batman movies have failed to capture the grace and power that I imagine should be shown in the fight sequences. Also the depiction of Bruce Wayne / Batman still lacks the Jekyll / Hyde dynamic that makes Batman as a character interesting to me.

    Your comment about a job as a sniper made me think. I’m not a procrastinator, so when I think something needs to be done, I’ll do it right away. I think I’m into delayed gratification. Killing people wouldn’t make me happy, so I don’t think I’d be a good candidate as a sniper.

    Regarding the difference between western and eastern myth making, this is an interesting topic that I’m not qualified to discuss. I would have to research this. I have an ignorance with regards to my heritage.

  • Rusty James

    @ Also the depiction of Bruce Wayne / Batman still lacks the Jekyll / Hyde dynamic

    uh.. Reed, I think you’ve confused Batman for someone completely different.

    Since you are unsatisfied with the fight scenes I’d be interested in hearing what some of your favorite fight scenes are. I know you like martial arts movies a lot.
    It could be kind of a companion to Jay’s list of favorite action scenes of the decade.