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Ballistic: Ecks vs Sever
cast: Antonio Banderas, Lucy Liu, Gregg Henry, Ray Park, and Talisa Soto

director: Kaos

87 minutes (15) 2002
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Warner DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Christopher Geary
Alternately gritty and stylish noir action thriller by first-time director Kaos (the alias of Wych Kaosayananda), Ballistic starts with the kidnapping of a crime lord's son by a hooded attacker who scythes through the young boy's entourage of child minders and bodyguards with consummate professional ease. This proves to be the handiwork of rogue government agent Sever (Lucy Liu), who later demolishes a squad of paramilitary cops, while she's armed with just a couple of sticks, then takes control of the assault team's truck-mounted machinegun to tear up parked cars around her on the street. The nominal authority figures in this cinematic essay of comicbook violence call upon the services of down-at-heel former FBI agent Ecks (Antonio Banderas), asking him to find Sever and rescue the kidnapped boy in exchange for information about the killer of his wife. But, eventually, it turns out that Sever knows all about Ecks' past and, even as Ecks purses her in a running fire and fistfight across the rooftops, she directs events so that her enemy becomes her ally against the villains that have murdered her son. There's also the question of a microbe-sized robot-assassin that's being smuggled into the country for probable auction to arms dealers...
   Lucy Liu shrewdly builds upon her Charlie's Angels' action girl persona with this Canadian film's hardboiled secret agent role ("Some women buy shoes," she quips, when Ecks asks where she got all her heavy ordnance) and, despite lacking a serious martial arts background in the manner of Michelle Yeoh, Liu sells her fast-paced combat scenes with an undeniable flair, whether she's tackling a small army of Vancouver police, knocking over the prison bus with a grenade launcher to free the captured Ecks, or meting out rough justice to senior henchman Ross (played by a reticent Ray Park, of Star Wars and X-Men fame). Banderas does what he can with his 'X' characterisation, and Gregg Henry brings an air of tightly controlled malice to the villainous Gant, but the film remains an amazing B-movie exercise in style over content.
   The DVD had Dolby digital 5.1 sound with English subtitles, plus a HBO First Look making-of promo, and the theatrical trailer.
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