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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Ballistic: Ecks Vs. Sever
Ballistic: Ecks Vs. Sever
Warner Bros. // R // December 24, 2002
List Price: $24.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted December 17, 2002 | E-mail the Author
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An action film that reaches previously unseen heights of absurdity, even for the genre, "Ballistic" seems so unconcerned with story and so fascinated with being flashy and loud that the film's 91 minutes seems like a demo reel for the FX crew (who will likely not want to add this one to their resume, anyways) and nothing else. The film is almost all action, all lacking much point and tied together with a cold visual style and incoherent story.

The film stars Antonio Banderas as Agent Ecks, a rogue FBI agent who continues to mourn the loss of his wife (Talisa Soto). When the child of a higher-up in the agency is kidnapped by an DIA agent named Sever (Lucy Liu), Ecks is called in to hunt her down. Apparently - and again, this is just what I was able to get from this movie, which appears as if much of it was left on the editing room floor - the wife isn't dead and the kid is carrying some sort of super weapon. Sever's motives are also unclear, although given the fact that Liu has something along the lines of about five lines of dialogue, the character's motivations are understandably hazy.

Directed by a first-timer who is known simply as Kaos (which this film is - a total, chaotic mess), the film is overloaded with a ridiculous amount of stylistic touches. Not a couple of minutes go by without the techno soundtrack starting up again or slow-mo camera tricks that go too long return. When not offering over-the-top and over-stylized action, the film pulls out nearly every one of the genre's cliches. It doesn't help that all of the actors read the film's terrible lines of dialogue with incredible seriousness.

The two leads deserve better. Banderas, who has managed to get himself in a lot of terrible movies lately (except for the "Spy Kids" series) once again seems disinterested and looks as if he's thinking about calling his agent every time he's about to step off-screen. Liu, who was good in the sunnier "Charlie's Angels", is pretty effective - and terrifying - in a far darker role, even if she hardly has any lines of dialogue. Ray Park (Darth Maul in "Star Wars: Episode I") also shows up in a supporting role, but doesn't get to do much until a disapointingly unspectacular action sequence with Liu towards the end. Clark Gregg was a better bad guy against Mel Gibson in "Payback".

The idea of two ace spies up against each other and then finding themselves working with one another has potential and could have been a great actioner. However, "Ballistic" needed stronger direction and a better story - or at least one that made much sense. While I'm on the subject, a better title (the film was based upon a video game from a while ago) would have been a nice start, too.

The DVD

VIDEO: "Ballistic" is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen by Warner Home Video. Filmed in fairly uninteresting fashion by talented comedy cinematographer Julio Macat (who added some visual elegance to films like "The Wedding Planner"), the transfer captures the film's rather washed-out look about as best as can probably be hoped. Sharpness and detail are quite good throughout, as fine detail is usually clearly visible.

Flaws are fairly mild, but there are a few concerns that presented themselves. Some mild edge enhancement was noticable and mildly bothersome, but it didn't appear in too many scenes. Some slight specks were also noticed on the print used. On a positive note, there was nothing in the way of pixelation or other artifacts. While the film's color palette is very muted and the film itself appears washed-out, this DVD seems to represent the film's intended look well.

SOUND: "Ballistic" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 by Warner Brothers. Although maybe my expectations were a bit too high, this soundtrack wasn't quite what I expected, given the near-constant action in the film. Don Davis's unimaginative techno score gets more presence than it should, although there are a few other more enjoyable techno tracks by various artists that are scattered throughout the soundtrack. The action scenes do employ the surrounds heavily for sound effects, but the mix somehow lacked an immersive or inspired quality, sounding rather "speaker-specific". Audio quality was fine, as the few lines of dialogue in the film came through clearly and both the music and sound effects packed a respectable amount of bass.

EXTRAS: A twelve and 1/2 minute featurette that seems mostly like an extended trailer is included, along with an odd interactive game, the film's trailer and cast/crew bios.

Final Thoughts: "Ballistic" provides constant, empty action, no story and little for its leads to do. Warner Brothers provides a standard DVD edition, with fine audio/video quality and little in the way of supplements. Definitely a film to avoid, though.
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