Sure, we all loved The Matrix. It was fun. Bullet Time! The Red Pill! THERE IS NO SPOON! But the problem with iconic films is that no matter how fun or interesting they are, and no matter how important a role they play in moving the aesthetic development of the medium forward, they almost always inadvertently usher in a long and painful stretch of unbearable copycats who lift the most meaningless aspects of the trendsetting film and use it to cover up the vacuousness of their rip-off project. You can’t have a Goodfellas without 10 Fuhgettaboutit Boys popping up the following year (perfect example). So, after we all joined Neo on his fabulous adventure of erotic self-discovery, America entered the dark days of the early ’00s action-adventure genre, when everything was skin-tight patent leather and close ups of bullets clinking on the marble floor of the shattered lobby.
One of those miserable half-hearted coattail riders was Ballistic: Ecks Vs. Sever, a movie that seems to be based around the basic premise: “what if Lucy Liu wore a purple trenchcoat?”
Ballistic: Ecks Vs. Sever is about a…rich guy…whose son gets kidnapped by Lucy Liu? So the FBI brings in Antonio Banderas (Ecks) to try and stop Lucy Liu (Sever)? And in return he will find out where his wife who he thought was dead but it turns out is alive is? So for awhile it looks like he is going to have a tough time stopping her, because she’s the best? But he’s also the best? They are very evenly matched? There is a shoot-out at the library? Oh, the whole thing takes place in Vancouver for some reason? Why is the FBI in Vancouver? But then it turns out that Antonio Banderas and Lucy Liu have to work together? Because the guy whose son she kidnapped has implanted a “super assassin” nanobot in his own son’s arm and also he killed Lucy Liu’s family with a bomb? But also it turns out that the bad guy is actually married to Antonio Banderas’s ex-wife? Or should I say BELIEVED TO BE DEAD WIFE? And they all used to be pals? And then at the very end there is a shootout at the train yards because of course there is a shoot-out at the train yards, and it turns out that Lucy Liu double-faked-out the bad guy and somehow managed to take the nanobot out of the little boy and put it inside the bad guy even though that science seems very dubious to say the least? And she pushes a button and it super-assassinates him nanobot style? And now Antonio Banderas and Lucy Liu are friends? And he is a father of a little boy who is going to need therapy because of how kidnapping and being a super-assassin nanobot mule will do that to children?
I ended all of the sentences in that synopsis with question marks because above all this movie is about NOT MAKING ANY FUCKING SENSE WHATSOEVER.
Out of all of the movies we have discussed thus far, this is the first one that is just an unmitigated disaster. I’m not even sure it’s a movie. Obviously whoever made it has seen movies before, at least a few of them. There are definitely things in here that look kind of like things that happen in movies. But it’s so poorly put together. Clearly the director graduated from Troy Duffy’s Film University of Making the Movies. Every aspect of it is thoughtless and/or mistaken. Take this sequence for example:
OK, um, did you notice at the very beginning, after the Prison Transport Bus pulls out of the police depot and drives down the street, how it cuts back to the garage door closing? WHAT IS THAT? That tiny moment captures everything that is wrong with this movie. When I was watching it, I thought “Oh, someone is going to sneak in under the door before it shuts, or maybe another truck is going to come smashing through at the last second, those are the only two possible explanations for cutting back to a garage door closing long after the movie’s hero has left the screen. Oh, nope. Just threw that in there. Movies!” Ridiculous. That would be an awful waste of the viewer’s time in Regarding Henry, but this is supposed to be an action movie. And don’t even get me started on the apparent basic principle of physics that allows for the shorn half of a bus to skid down the street for what seems like hours. I’m not trying to be all Bill Nye the Science Guy, but as he famously said: “No.”
The Wikipedia hits it pretty much on the head:
The film was universally panned by critics, who generally regarded it as having no redeeming features, not even the comedic value normally associated with bad films.
You know how critics are always talking about the elusive comedic value normally associated with bad films? Manohla Dargis loves it. But the critics are right, this movie does not even have that redeeming feature. It is just pure drudgery. Nonsensical drudgery. Even the fight scenes are turgid.
As someone who loves a good fight scene even if the movie itself is worthless, this is just painful. It’s less an exciting fight between two highly skilled opponents and more just two middle-aged actors phoning in their pre-choreographed moves. If The Matrix had “bullet time,” Ballistic: Ecks Vs. Sever has “Geritol time.”
Besides a movie’s only as good as its green screen.
AND WHAT THE FUCK DOES BALLISTIC: ECKS VS. SEVER EVEN MEAN?
So if an action movie is terrible at action, it’s already pretty obviously sunk. No action movie has thrived on the complexity of its plotting and performances alone, but obviously this movie did not have those. In addition to just not making any sense whatsoever, it also threw in more stupid curveballs than Matt Stone’s and Trey Parker’s BASEketball. Example:
Wait a second, did Antonio Banderas just say that a government agency was buying unwanted Chinese girls and training them to be government assassins? PERFECT. It’s nice to see a movie that pays such fine attention to detail. When the wife gets fed up that her rich and powerful (and it turns out, evil) husband isn’t doing enough to get her kidnapped son back safely, she does what any distraught mother would do: she goes to the aquarium. It’s like human life captured at 24 frames per second.
But it’s not like the major plot points are any less inexplicably retarded. Like, Antonio Banderas’s whole motivation throughout the movie is to find his wife, because he thought he saw her die in a car explosion and he “even went to her funeral” (“you went to her closed casket funeral” the FBI director knowingly reminds him) but it turns out she’s alive, and eventually it turns out that her husband is the bad guy, right? Classic action/thriller twist. Except, HOW HARD IS IT TO VERIFY THAT YOUR WIFE DIDN’T DIE IN A CAR EXPLOSION? Especially when she marries the guy you just had lunch with right before two cars exploded in the parking lot (long story, very stupid, don’t worry about it). Did he not even try? “Well, she’s dead now.” Neither of them tried at all. No wonder they are so in love.
I want my money back. Cancel my Netflix. Mom, I think I’m moving home for the summer.
Then again, it’s my fault for watching this whole thing. I should have known from the opening credits:
Full grown adult + terrible one-word nickname + written in stupid 1990s “cool” speak = nothing could can possibly be about to happen. It’s just math. McG knows what I’m talking about.
Next week: Bulworth. As always, please leave your suggestions in the comments or in an email. And if you haven’t done so already, please consult the Official Rules.