Every part of “Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever” exists for the sole purpose of bringing about more action. Only a basic plotline drives this film where just about every scene has somebody being punched, slashed, shot, or blown-up. Sever (Lucy Liu, “Shanghai Noon”) has more super-agent skills than James Bond, which she uses to pummel or kill just about every other character in the film including Antonio Banderas. Ecks (Banderas, “Four Rooms”) has a cheeky attitude and FBI training that helps him outwit everyone but Sever. Together, they cause tremendous destruction but have a story that is anything but interesting.
“Ballistic” appropriately titles the film as a multitude of bullets and projectile weapons barrage the screen. Director Wych Kaosayananda, a.k.a. Kaos, fails to deliver a meaningful film in his first attempt in American cinema, but he does manage to produce similar action to that of his crossover predecessors. He makes it so that each and every bullet fired receives sufficient attention. The weapons have more screen presence than the actors themselves.
As a retired FBI agent, Ecks is drawn back into service after learning that this new assignment can bring information about his assumed deceased wife. His assignment: find Sever. The FBI has learned that the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Robert Gant (Gregg Henry, “Payback”), has stolen a new microscopic killing machine from a lab in Germany, and they are after Sever because she kidnapped Gant’s son. Ecks must find Sever and the information she has on the stolen technology before the DIA does. She has an arsenal full of deadly weaponry and the skills to kill anyone and everyone she pleases. This supplies a tremendous obstacle for all who need to catch and contain her, especially because she uses the tactics of her would-be captures.
After a whole sequence of events involving Sever destroying a small army of agents and police officers, a chase and Ecks being arrested, the story evolves into a more complex family issue. The boy who Sever kidnapped is really Ecks’ son, and his wife, who he had assumed dead and buried, is married to Gant. Sever, not surprisingly, has a powerful grudge against the DIA. She was an agent trained by them from childhood, but left the service after a botched assignment lead to the agency killing her family. Of course this provides the motivation for the two characters to join forces for the ultimate purpose of revenge.
Nearly every character and storyline in the film is forgotten or left unsatisfied. The majority of the cast has negligible importance and serves as mostly a stomping ground for Liu. Nothing in the story explains her character’s lack of expression and emotion, and Banderas has an emotional arc of tired to witty to tired with a momentary lapse of pain courtesy of Liu or some falling pipelines. Many of the sequences have no reason being in the film whatsoever, as they neither drive the story nor have any bearing on the character’s lives. Even the history behind Ecks believing his wife dead and her loveless marriage to Gant is poorly explained. For some reason, everything most important is explained in passing and paid little attention, and anything less important is unsettled.
However, putting aside the emptiness of the script and the derivative nature of the story, the action sequences in the film do present a fair level of excitement. The fighting is well choreographed, and the film is piled high with gun battles reminiscent of John Woo’s bullet ballets. Lucy Liu is quite impressive with her physicality, especially in her fantastic face-off against Gant’s lackey Ross (British martial arts expert Ray Park, “X-Men”). Additionally, the action allows Kaos to film some fantastic shots, including one of the greatest death plunges ever. Yet, as with everything else in the film, the action is hindered by an overabundance of slow motion and unmotivated killing.
Although some of the photography is notable, the film is nothing more than a mediocre action movie. Probably the most intriguing fact is that it was shot in Vancouver and actually takes place in Vancouver as opposed to making it New York. It would have been much more exciting if the DIA ever seemed like it actually posed a threat or challenge to Ecks and Sever, but instead they cruise along with their hardest task being uniting in their common cause. Kaos does nothing to relieve the absence of substance, suspense, and potency. This is one movie where a tremendous amount of battle cannot come close to making up for a total lack of an appealing story.