Stuff blows up, but 'Ballistic' no blast
Special to The Seattle Times
They used to do a sketch on "SCTV" called "Farm Film Report," with Big Jim McBob and Billy Saul Hurok (John Candy and Joe Flaherty), who would review films based on how many things got "blowed up." If enough things got "blowed up," well, that was a good picture.
"Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever" is a picture for Big Jim McBob and Billy Saul Hurok. Which is to say, it's a picture for idiots.
A boy is kidnapped amid many slow-motion explosions by a slim, hooded figure, who, at the last instant, removes the hood to reveal — gasp! — a woman: Agent Sever (Lucy Liu). The child is the son of Gant (Gregg Henry), the head of a U.S. spy agency whose team recently stole a microscopic "assassination device" from a German laboratory. Sever, herself, is a former agent of Gant's. What's her game plan? Could she, the star, Lucy Liu, be evil? Or is the evil one Gant — he of the creepy, drawn-on lips and sadistic sneer?
To find out, super-agent Ecks (Antonio Banderas) is forced out of retirement, which he seems to have spent drinking and smoking (in slow motion) at the local bar. His wife was killed in an explosion some years back, and he's never gotten over it. Now his boss tells him his wife is alive; but he'll only divulge her whereabouts if Ecks tracks down Sever.
The agency does this for him. They attack her in a Vancouver, B.C., mall where she's been shopping (in slow motion) and where she quickly lays waste to all of them. Ecks gives chase, and we're treated, rather early, to the grand battle implicit in the title, which, since Liu trained for her role for months and Banderas apparently not at all, isn't so grand, and is mostly shot from a distance.
The film only gets worse, and the reunion scene between Ecks and his wife is seat-squirmingly awful. It's one of the few moments where there isn't an explosion, and where we really could've used one.
Erik Lundegaard: firstname.lastname@example.org.