Rated R - Running Time: 1:31 - Released 9/20/02

We have learned—or should have learned—many times in the past that basing movies on electronic games is a bad idea (titles like Mortal Kombat, Resident Evil, and Lara Croft spring vigorously to mind). No one expects action movies to be brilliant, but Wych Kaosayananda's Ballistic: Ecks Vs. Sever, which is based on a GameBoy game—A GAMEBOY GAME, folks, not even full fledged Nintendo—couldn't be more cartoonish if it were painted on acetate. It's loaded with two-dimensional characters, mindless violence set to pounding music, and a story so ridiculous, so incomprehensibly stupid, one can hardly find adequate words to denounce it. Antonio Banderas, Lucy Liu, have you no pride? Have you no standards? Have you no shame? Don't you pay attention to what's written on the papers you're signing?

The story, written by Alan B. McElroy, involves evil genius Robert Gant (played with teeth-gritting menace by Gregg Henry), who has invented the perfect tool for assassination: a microscopic device which is injected into the bloodstream of the victim where it swims around like a little mechanical frog until activated. With the touch of a button, the froggiebot administers a toxin which can "give a head of state a heart attack" in a matter of seconds. For safe keeping, Gant has lovingly injected the prototype into his young stepson Michael (Aidan Drummond), but Michael has been kidnapped by a mysterious agent named Sever (Liu), who seems to have an unlimited supply of canned whoopass in her possession, and also is apparently bulletproof. She is keeping Michael hostage because 1) she knows about the device, and 2) she has an old score to settle with Gant. The CIA director (Miguel Sandoval) knows that the only agent who can find Gant, get ahold of the device, and discover Sever's identity is ex-agent Jeremiah Ecks (Banderas), who hit the bottle seven years ago after the fiery death of his beloved wife (Talisa Soto) in a car bombing. Although Ecks is not interested in resuming his old career, his boss lures him back in with the tantalizing information that his wife is alive and the case will help him find her.

While this movie attempts to display some sort of "family values" theme—Ecks and Sever are both bitter over the deaths of family members—it is so fraught with howlingly bad dialogue and seizure-inducing action that it almost made me wish for the relative tranquility and incisive screenwriting of Pokémon. It is a veritable showcase of badness, with actors trying desperately to keep a straight face while uttering lines that ring with hollow stupidity. It leaps from one mindless action scene to another, relentlessly battering our consciousness with bullets, ersatz martial arts moves, and fiery explosions. And the quieter moments between the fire fights are worse—whenever the characters open their mouths, we say, all right, all right...go back to shooting. *

Copyright 2002 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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