To quote Marshall Fine: “Kaos would have saved everyone a lot of time and money by simply eliminating the stars and the story and releasing Ballistic as Giant Fireballs, Vol. 1.”
Despite the title, this movie rarely pits Ecks (Banderas) vs. Sever (Liu). The two spend more of the film teamed, up taking on the evil duo (Henry and Park) who killed Sever’s family and have kidnapped Ecks’ son – perhaps a spoiler, but anyone who didn’t see that one coming, was probably run over on the way to the cinema.
The film raises a number of interesting issues. Unfortunately, they stem more from the cinematic process, such as wondering why no-one taking part in the car-chases ever appears to drive faster than the speed limit. I know it’s Canada, but these are supposed to be characters living on the edge, not concerned with getting traffic tickets. And speaking of Canada, why are so many American government agencies operating in the open, blowing things up and shooting anyone in range, with barely a whimper from the locals?
The other problem is that no-one in the movie can act – we should perhaps exempt Liu, since she has barely a dozen lines. The scenes of Banderas and his wife (Soto) are woefully lacking in chemistry, and Ray Park is simply dreadful, despite looking so much like Oz from Buffy, that I kept expecting a full moon and a transformation. The plot is equally inept, tacking on an entire chunk about microscopic robotic assassins which is almost totally redundant. It’s nice that the studio changed Sever from male to female, but the results are…well, at time of writing, the Rotten Tomatoes review score runs 64-0 against the movie, which must be some kind of record. [Update, December 2013: Try 110-0!. Which is, indeed, the worst ever.]
There is one great sequence, when Sever is ambushed at a library, in which she mows down an entire army, picking up their weapons and turning them against their owners. This culminates in a fabulous shot from above of a victim dropping onto a car which you keep thinking is going to cut away – it doesn’t. That, however, is it, and despite such brief flashes of potential, this is largely lame, tame and full of unfulfilled possibilities. Ten years ago, it might have been a Hong Kong movie starring Simon Yam and Yukari Oshima – on the whole, that would have been much more entertaining.
Star: Antonio Banderas, Lucy Liu, Gregg Henry, Ray Park