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Movie Review

To put it delicately, former FBI agent Jeremiah Ecks is a mess. His hope for a peaceful future with his wife Vinn went up in flames with a car bombing. All he has left to look forward to are long days and nights drenched in alcohol and perfumed with nicotine as he mourns his wife’s death. Then he receives the impossible news that Vinn is still alive. With it comes conditions. In exchange for information about his wife, Ecks must provide his investigative services for the FBI one last time. It seems that a highly-trained rogue operative named Sever has kidnapped a boy named Michael, the son of shadowy government official Robert Gant. In trade for his wife, Ecks must find Sever and the kid. Simple enough. But Gant isn’t the concerned dad he appears to be. More concerned for the nanotech assassin which he’s hidden in his son (and which can kill its victims with the push of a button), he will stop at nothing—including deceit and murder—to regain the technology.

positive elements: Vague messages about the importance of family. Sever guns for Gant because he killed her family during a botched tactical strike. She cares for Michael like a mother and protects him from Gant’s marauding agents. Ecks’ grief after Vinn’s supposed death reduces him to a shell of a man. He urges an agent to abandon his high-risk job at the FBI if he loves his family. [Spoiler Warning] When Ecks and Vinn are reunited, she says her devotion to him never died, despite the fact that she married Gant thinking Ecks had perished in a similar explosion.

Teamwork also gets the same fuzzy treatment in Ecks and Sever’s relationship. Initially arch enemies, they become fight-to-the-death allies when Ecks learns of Gant’s treachery. (One scene has each firing past the other to pick off heavily armed, trigger-happy gunmen.)

spiritual content: When Michael’s mother discovers he’s safe, she proclaims, "Thank God!"

sexual content: Minor. In one scene, Vinn wears a low-cut blouse. A man makes out with a woman in an alley until Sever breaks his nose.

violent content: From its earliest scenes, Ballistic: Ecks Vs. Sever is just dying to become The Matrix. Tightly tailored black bodysuits and cape-like overcoats. Intricate, slo-mo chop-socky action. And guns, guns, and more guns. Taking the credo "Style Over Substance" very seriously, Ballistic never misses an opportunity to explode into an orgy of choreographed mayhem, most of which, thankfully, is completely bloodless. Sever kidnaps Michael by detonating a bomb, demolishing a car with a dump truck and beating his guards to a pulp. A confrontation between Sever and Gant’s men becomes an extended gunfight which turns into an extended chase scene which transforms into an extended brawl between her and Ecks. In order to free Ecks from a prison transport, Sever blows it off a busy interstate with a rocket-propelled grenade. A hectic chase scene ends with two cars exploding and a man being thrown from a speeding motorcycle. The final confrontation in an abandoned shipping yard features more explosions than you could count with your shoes off. Sever engages in a knife fight with an old foe. And I’ve just begun to scratch the surface!

crude or profane language: For an R-rated film, surprisingly little. Two f-words appear along with four s-words (one of which is muffled) and half-a-dozen other mild profanities. God’s name is used in vain three times and Jesus’ twice.

drug and alcohol content: Ecks drinks hard liquor in a bar and smokes often. An agent cracks a pun about Ecstasy when he sees Ecks popping pills. Ecks replies, "I’m on a diet," leaving the pills’ identity a mystery. When Ecks tries to light up in the agent’s house, his five-year-old daughter shakes her head no and he dutifully puts the pack away.

other negative elements: Like so many action films before it, Ballistic wholeheartedly buys into the concept of revenge. The film justifies Sever’s vigilantism and vengeance since Gant is a really bad guy.

conclusion: When a director picks the nickname Kaos and he creates an action movie that is, shall we say, fiercely deficient in the cohesion department, he's just begging to be blasted by critics. But Wych Kaosayananda deserves at least a left-handed compliment for his work with Ballistic. While it's a rote and rarely entertaining actioner—and what else would you expect from a film based on a Game Boy Advance title?—it shows more restraint than most others in its genre. As Shakespeare’s King Lear says, "Not being the worst stands in some rank of praise."


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