Directed by Wych Kaosayananda. USA/Germany. 2002.
Talking to the crowd of Ballistic attendees outside the Capitol theatre (at the Atlantic Film Festival) I attempted to judge the overall expectation for the film. To sum it up in one word.....
And thereís only one reason, the filmís promotional department has apparently been coached at the Monty Python school of publicity, using nothing but explosions to try and entice their prospective audience. Iíve got news for them: WEíVE SEEN THAT. The choice to show a 5 minute presentation on the newest pyrotechnics available in Hollywood while omitting any of the humour and verve that Ballistic has to itís credit does nothing but make an audience wait for video. Plus they should have shown more footage of Ray Park.
Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever is a big budget version of the all important lesson ďnever judge a book by itís cover.Ē An ambitious businessman has obtained a device designed to kill without leaving a trace. A rogue government agent, and one of itís most rigidly loyal employees are both dispatched to retrieve it, and itís owner. In the fight to accomplish their goal, they discover who their real friends are.
AND Ray Parkís in it.
Itís very easy to see why Antonio Banderas (Desperado, The Mask of Zorro) was attracted to the part of Agent Jeremiah Ecks, the reluctant hero. Itís tailor made for him. Ecks is a very strong character, and Banderas plays him with smarts and sensitivity. (His character reminded me of Tommy Lee Jonesí federal marshal in The Fugitive.) Ballistic is the first film where I have seen Banderas let his natural comic timing show through to wonderful effectiveness. His sarcastic delivery made Ecks at once gritty, tough, and likeable. I havenít enjoyed Banderas this much since his turn in Desperado.
Though heís not as good looking as Ray Park.
Lucy Liu (Charlieís Angels, TVís Ally McBeal) plays the tougher of the two roles; rogue government agent Sever. Watching her I couldnít help but be thrilled at the fact that Hollywood has FINALLY put out an action film with a smart, tough as nails female character. Liu always comes across as a likeable blaze of charismatic energy which aids in giving her character depth here. Though Sever might be a vicious woman, Liuís charisma makes the audience interested enough to attempt to grasp her characterís motivations. I am quickly coming to the opinion that Liu is the modern epitome of grace and style. (Especially here, as in one scene alone she manages to destroy at least 30 cars, shoot 27 criminals and hijack an assault vehicle without messing up her hair or ruining her clothes.) I really liked the fact that her character never lost her edge to make her more palatable to the male roles in the film. Liu did a great job.
Ray Park plays Ross, the chief protector of the pursued businessman. Besides the fact that he is absolutely FREAKING adorable without all the getups intrinsic to his previous roles, his charisma gives him amazing potential as a lead. I was a little concerned by the flatness of his early scenes. Through the first act of the film he almost seemed nervous. I wondered whether or not he was wondering what to do with himself without his usual prosthetics, without his mask to hide behind. Once we arrived at the third act of the film, all my doubts disappeared. Parkís scenes ceased seeming tentative, and his inner animal came out. Parkís eyes can seem at once savage, consumed with ferocity, and in the next second a sense of protectiveness, and kindness comes out. His performance in Ballistic was uneven, but I sense that was more poor direction then lack of skill, as in his last scenes Park has enough intensity to rival anyone in the action world. Given the right role, with a director whoíll push him to his limits I think Park has the capacity to take a spot among the film worldís elite.
Not to mention the fact that I would be hard pressed to name another actor out there who can elevate the estrogen level in a theatre to tangible proportions merely by appearing on the screen.
I really enjoyed Ballistic: Ecks vs Sever. Admittedly I put up with some merciless taunting from my fellow festival delegates for going to see that film instead of something more arty, but I wouldnít have traded the experience of the preview showing for anything. Itís admittedly fluffy, and the story falls in on itself if you examine it too closely, but itís got great fight choreography, fantastic car chases, witty dialogue, and exceptionally fun performances. Itís everything an action film should be, and is well worth a big screen visit.
Plus, well, Ray Parkís in it.
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