Plot: What’s it about?
Jeremiah Ecks (Antonio Banderas) was perhaps the FBI’s most gifted agent, with all the needed skills to track down almost any criminal. His resume was loaded with fugitives who once lined the Most Wanted list, only to wind up jailed by Ecks’ efforts. But when his wife was taken from him by a car bomb, he left the field and looked to alcohol for support. So while the crimes continued, Ecks was at home trying to bury his troubles. But he is soon called back into the line of duty, though not as part of a normal case, instead this assignment is more like a black ops mission, one that requires him to put the past on hold. An old boss of his, Julio Martin (Miguel Sandoval) informs him that his assistance is needed, but as expected, Ecks isn’t interested. But when Martin tells Ecks that his wife is actually alive, his attention shifts and with the promise of her location as incentive, he agrees to be involved. At the same time, a former DIA agent named Sever (Lucy Liu) has just kidnapped the head of DIA’s son, leaving behind a wake of destruction. Her former boss is Robert Gant (Gregg Henry), who is involved in a scheme to control a top secret weapon, one which could shift the balance of power to no end. As it turns out, Ecks and Sever are lifelong enemies, but in order to survive this mission, they’ll need to put that aside and work together…
In recent times, most action movies have been visually dynamic, with grand scenes of kinetic battles, but short on storyline and development. That trend continues here with Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever, which can be fun to watch and has some awesome visuals, but never moves beyond a basic, simplistic action picture. I know we’ve come to overlook plot holes in action movies, which is fine, but movies like Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever push too much and ask us to overlook way too much, to the point of a total breakdown at times. I wanted to like this movie, as I love to see intricate gun battles and well crafted action sequences, which Ballistic offers at times, but at the cost of thin characters and minimal substance. The always stunning Lucy Liu is all but wasted here, while Antonio Banderas, Talisa Soto, and Ray Park all seem to be having fun, but aren’t given the chance to shine within their roles. I will say this though, Ballistic has some wicked action scenes and while unrealistic, they provide ample thrills and for those of you interested in sheer mindless mayhem, Ballistic should suffice. So on a slanted action movie kind of scale, it rates a decent enough score, but don’t expect a genre masterpiece here. Warner’s disc reflects the movie’s poor performance, but looks & sounds terrific, so its recommended to action fans in need of a rental.
As this movie relies on its visuals and action scenes, you won’t be talking about the performances afterwards, trust me on that one. But if you have to pull one effort to focus on, it would have to be the work of Antonio Banderas, if simply because more time was taken to build his role than in the others. Even so, Banderas is just going through the motions at times, though he does seem to be having fun, at least in most instances. The flaws in the material prevent him from being all that impressive, but he does enhance the role thanks to his presence and in this movie, every little bit helps. He looks slick as usual and was a good match for the role, but like I said, without the needed depth in the material, he can only do so much. Other films with Banderas include Desperado, Four Rooms, The Mask of Zorro, Original Sin, Philadelphia, The 13th Warrior, Spy Kids, and The House of the Spirits. The cast also includes Lucy Liu (Charlie’s Angels, Shanghai Noon), Talisa Soto (Mortal Kombat, Island of the Dead), Ray Park (The Phantom Menace, X-Men), and Gregg Henry (Raising Cain, Femme Fatale).
Video: How does it look?
Ecks vs. Sever is presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. I have no real complaints to make with this treatment, but due to some minor, but evident flaws, it doesn’t rate an elite score. This movie has a lot of dark visuals and they look excellent here, with smooth contrast throughout, so black levels are razor sharp. That means detail is high at all times, so all the small visual touches come through just as intended. On the same lines, the colors are bright and bold here, while flesh tones remain natural and consistent. As I said, some minor issues surface from time to time, but they’re never a distraction. So while I won’t rate this one as a reference level presentation, it does warrant a high score.
Audio: How does it sound?
You want a powerful, dynamic audio experience? If so, then strap yourself in and let Ballistic’s Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack knock down the walls. This has to be the deepest and most impressive use of a subwoofer I’ve heard in a long time, this will send murmurs through your heart and turn your pictures crooked, no doubt about it. But the bass never seems forced or out of place, so the other elements don’t suffer as a result, and if anything, they seem to benefit and come through that much better. The surrounds kick hard and often here too, especially whenever the action heats up and the impact elements surface. The dialogue and softer elements are never buried though, so vocals are crisp and subtle audio is just as solid. This disc also includes a French language track, as well as subtitles in English, Spanish, and French.
Supplements: What are the extras?
When a thirteen minute fluff piece from HBO is the best supplement on deck, you know little effort has been put into the extras. That’s the case here, where all we have is that short featurette, a lame interactive game, a selection of talent files, and the film’s theatrical trailer. I would have enjoyed an extended look at the creation of the movie’s action scenes or a commentary of some sort, but no luck in either case here.