When it was first released, Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever (2002), was savaged by the critics and cold-shouldered by the general public. To quote Wikipedia: “In March 2007, the movie review site Rotten Tomatoes ranked the film #1 among “The Worst of the Worst” movie list, with 108 “rotten” reviews and no “fresh” ones… Financially, the film was also a box office failure, recouping just over $19.9 million of its $70 million budget.” Ouch! As a Lucy Liu fan, I was wary about watching this notorious turkey, in case it tainted my appreciation of her… but the fact is, this is nowhere near the worst movie I’ve ever seen. I mean, yes, it’s boring, and yes, it’s dumb… but it certainly isn’t as sickening or offensive as something like Pledge This! or Lesbian Vampire Killers.
The plot is really, really stupid though… and very poorly explained. As I understood it, the young son of a big time crime-lord-type gets snatched from his wife by a kick-ass assassin named ‘Agent Sever’ (Liu)… and a rumpled, retired secret agent named ‘Agent Ecks’ (Antonio Banderas) is called in to track the kid down, despite the fact he’s still mourning the death of his true love in a car-bomb explosion. Then it turns out the crime-lord is actually an ex-secret agent, who used to pal around with Ecks, and the crime-lord’s wife is actually the supposedly-dead-woman our “hero” mourns for… and the kid they’re all looking for is also Ecks’s long-lost son! It’s just stupidity on top of stupidity… and that’s without even getting into Sever’s backstory, and why she needed to nap the kid in the first place. Believe me, you’re better off not knowing… but if you are still curious, there’s a much more detailed plot breakdown over at The AV Club.
I did quite enjoy the action set-pieces, even if they were so ludicrous I started getting flashbacks to the Grand Theft Auto games… and it’s always nice to see Liu kicking ass, and slinking around in a black cat-suit. Just a shame she gets so little dialogue, and zero opportunity to show much personality or crack a joke.
[Note: The Wikipedia plot summary suggests that it’s obvious from the start that the “crime-lord” character is actually the corrupt director of a fancy fictional intelligence agency… but that did not register with me at all. Meh.]