Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever Preview

As world famous bad movie scientists, we obviously have a high powered lawyer on retainer to fix the many jams we find ourselves in. Unfortunately he’s far too busy cleaning up our latest scandal to help up set up the BMT Productions, LLC. “No probs, bro,” we say and hop right onto LawyerHelpPleaseAndThankYou.net to find a new lawyer the old fashioned way. We obvs crush it on the message boards and soon snare a lawyer who says she will do it for free (and she sounds pretty cute to boot). When she shows up though we are shocked to find that she’s no lady… she’s a dog! And our country club is no dogs allowed (gulp). But we’re in a jam and we need this LLC quick or else the Obsidian Dongle is doomed. We just got to get it done, dog lawyer or no. Surprisingly, our journey with Ruffles is marked by startling personal growth. Patrick’s rambunctious children realize their Dad can still be pretty cool sometimes and Jamie finally learns to live and love again. Ruffles has changed our lives and become this man’s… best friend. Just as we are about to sign the final papers for the company an assassin jumps through the window and knocks us out cold. When we awaken Ruffles is gone and all that’s left is a note that says “I’ve taken your dog lawyer to Vancouver. Follow if you dare. Signed, Aitch.” While this seemingly makes no sense and veers wildly away from our original plan of creating a film company, we only have one choice. The fate of Ruffles is in our hands. That’s right! We’re watching Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever (Produced by Elie Samaha who also produced Battlefield Earth). This is the worst reviewed film of all time and is one that Patrick and I have both seen before (I’ve actually seen it a few times). However recently we decided that we’re going to revisit such gems and give them the full BMT treatment. This one deserves it. Let’s go!

Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever (2002) – BMeTric: 77.2

BallisticEcksvsSever_BMeT

BallisticEcksvsSever_RV

(Stock still baby. No regression = super ultra everyone-agrees-this-is-garbage film. Which makes sense considering this is the worst reviewed film on Rotten Tomatoes in history.)

Leonard Maltin – BOMB –  Idiotic action film boasts what may be the worst movie title ever coined. Banderas plays an ex-FBI agent still mourning the death of his wife after seven years; his former boss recruits him for a kidnapping case by telling him his wife is still alive, and the kidnapper can lead him to her. But even that sliver of logic dissolves as the story unfolds. Only devotees of cars exploding into fireballs will find any value here.

(If this got anything other than a BOMB my head would have exploded. I remember this movie not making a lick of sense. There is a crazy bus scene, but I don’t remember an inordinate number of car explosions. I think the people who would find value in it are more likely to be wire-fu completionists. I’m loving that semi-colon in the middle of the review as well, you always give your audience what they want Leonard, I love it.)

Trailer – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tme_SdRv2gk

(A microdevice! Oh no! Two main things. First, them dropping what is the worst like in the film (“I told her you just got beat up by a girl”) and blowing their load with the kind of sweet overhead shot of the guy falling off of the building is just premo marketing. They also give away the plot of the film, like beginning to end. I’ll give them this: the trailer looked a lot better than the actual film is.)

Directors – Wych Kaosayananda – (BMT: Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever; Notes: The son of a Thai diplomat he broke out with Fah in 1998, which had the largest budget for any Thai film to that point. Ballistic basically destroyed his career in the US, although in interviews he chaulks many of the issues it has up to its disastrous production.)

Writers – Alan B. McElroy (written by) (as Alan McElroy) – (Known For: Wrong Turn; Future BMT: Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings; Tekken; Spawn; Thr3e; Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers; The Perfect Guy; Rapid Fire; BMT: Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever; The Marine; Left Behind; Notes: Interestingly in interviews the director claims the script was heavily rewritten by Peter Lenkov without credit. Amazing career focusing heavily on horror. He was probably in the last wave of people who literally just up and moved to Hollywood with a single script in hand and was hired onto the Columbia screenwriting program based off of that.)

Extra Note: Peter Lenkov wrote Son in Law and Demolition Man. He mainly does tv now, and is notably the writer of the original R.I.P.D. comic book!

Actors – Antonio Banderas – (Known For: Shrek 2; Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles; Shrek the Third; Spy Kids; Shrek Forever After; Bullet Head; The Mask of Zorro; Frida; Acts of Vengeance; Desperado; Knight of Cups; La piel que habito; Spy Kids 3: Game Over; Philadelphia; Black Butterfly; Once Upon a Time in Mexico; The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water; The 33; Puss in Boots; Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams; Future BMT: Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D; Machete Kills; Play It to the Bone; Never Talk to Strangers; The Other Man; The Legend of Zorro; The Body; The Big Bang; Original Sin; Two Much; Gun Shy; Autómata; Assassins; Of Love and Shadows; Justin and the Knights of Valour; The 13th Warrior; Four Rooms; Imagining Argentina; Black Gold; BMT: Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever; The Expendables 3; Notes: Most notable as the bee in those Nasonex ads (j/k). Zorro, Puss in Boots, Spy Kids, Expendables. You know Antonio Banderas! Spanish actor who successfully crossed over into American films.)

Lucy Liu – (Known For: Kill Bill: Vol. 1; Kill Bill: Vol. 2; Chicago; Kung Fu Panda 3; Jerry Maguire; Charlie’s Angels; Kung Fu Panda; Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle; Lucky Number Slevin; Kung Fu Panda 2; Payback; Detachment; The Man with the Iron Fists; Shanghai Noon; TinkerBell and the Secret of the Wings; Kaguyahime no monogatari; True Crime; Gridlock’d; Cypher; City of Industry; Future BMT: Code Name: The Cleaner; Rise; Play It to the Bone; Domino; Hotel; The Trouble with Bliss; Molly; Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You; The Mating Habits of the Earthbound Human; BMT: Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever; Notes: American, she is fluent in Mandarin Chinese however. Has played Watson on the long running television series Elementary.)

Talisa Soto – (Known For: Licence to Kill; Don Juan DeMarco; The Pope of Greenwich Village; The Mambo Kings; La Mission; Piñero; Spike of Bensonhurst; Future BMT: Mortal Kombat: Annihilation; Spy Hard; Mortal Kombat; The Sunchaser; BMT: Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever; Notes: Basically retired from acting after this film. Not because of the film, she happened to marry Benjamin Bratt and have her first child around the same time … but I like to think her experiences on Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever helped her decide.)

Budget/Gross – $70 million / Domestic: $14,307,963 (Worldwide: $19,924,033)

(There is a note below claiming this is the biggest bomb ever, which is obviously false. Yes, $70 million is a lot, but I’m pretty sure at this point films that have cost of $100 million have ended up not being released. It is impossible for this to be the worst ever I think. But this is catastrophic stuff, the whole budget is a write off at that point.)

#20 for the Action – Wire-Fu genre

ecksvssever_wirefu

(Amazing. It really was in that in between period when you could spend the money on this stuff, and when it probably was all replaced with CGI instead. Romeo Must Die, Cradle 2 the Grave, The Tuxedo, Bulletproof Monk, The Medallion … we’ve seen a lot of these films. A very funny genre with a delightful mix of amazing and trash films as well.)

#64 for the Action Heroine genre

ecksvssever_actionheroine

(A bit ahead of the curve there which is interesting, especially considering none of the other combinations in the notes had the character played by a woman. The genre is obviously booming now. Fun fact: We’ve seen the lowest grossing movie on this list, Barb Wire, which is indeed barely a movie.)

#89 for the Spy genre

ecksvssever_spy

(Right in the thick of the peak. The huge dive is, I think, because Pierce Brosnan was James Bond for the last time then (in a terrible movie), so it kind of put a damper on the genre which was kind of subsequently taken over by Bourne for a bit.)

Rotten Tomatoes – 0% (0/116): A startlingly inept film, Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever offers overblown, wall-to-wall action without a hint of wit, coherence, style, or originality.

(From what I remember, this sounds about right. Noteworthy, still, for being the only movie with over 100 reviews all of which were rotten. I don’t think this will ever be broken in the age of ironic viewing and good-for-what-it-is-itis. Which I guess makes this all the more amazing. Reviewer Highlight: Ballistic is a generic blur of metallic blue and fireball orange set to the contrapuntal sounds of throbbing techno and eardrum-puncturing noise. – Manohla Dargis, Los Angeles Times)

Poster – Sklog-llistic: Rich vs. Poe (B+)

ballistic_ecks_vs_sever

(I like this poster, but I don’t love this poster and I’m not totally sure why. It’s got everything: blue tone, unique font, nice enough framing. I guess it just doesn’t tell a story to me. Like if I saw this poster would I want to go see it? Nope.)

Tagline(s) – Your most dangerous enemies are the friends you’ve double-crossed. (D)

(Lol, wot? They talk about this film being a convoluted mess. Same goes for the tagline. Also, I don’t think this has anything to do with the actual plot of this film.)

Keyword(s) – fbi; Top Ten by BMeTric: 81.7 I Know Who Killed Me (2007); 78.8 Torque (2004); 77.2 Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever (2002); 76.0 Death Note (2017); 74.8 Taxi (I) (2004); 73.7 Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle (2003); 71.9 The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle (2000); 70.3 Big Momma’s House 2 (2006); 68.7 3 Ninjas: High Noon at Mega Mountain (1998); 67.1 Did You Hear About the Morgans? (2009);

(Death Note doesn’t count (Netflix original), but the rest of those I am down for. I’m surprised Speed 2 doesn’t have this keyword. It definitely has a higher BMeTric than 67.)

Notes – The film is #1 on Rotten Tomatoes’ list of “The 100 Worst Reviewed Movies of All Time”. (Indeed, I believe it is the only film with over one hundred reviews that are all rotten)

The film grossed less than 30% of its budget at the box office, making it one of the biggest box-office failures in film history. (Weeeeellllllll, not sure I believe that one)

Agent Sever was originally written to be played by a man. The film’s original stars were Wesley Snipes and Jet Li, then Vin Diesel and Sylvester Stallone. (I would have watched any of these three versions)

While filming a large-scale action scene that involved explosives, a detonation occurred too close to Antonio Banderas, who escaped with minor burns. (Scary)

The 2001 Game Boy Advance game “Ecks vs. Sever” was actually based on an early script draft for this film, not the other way around. The game’s producers later made a sequel to that game that was based on the finished version of this movie. (Apparently the one based off of the script is quite good as well. The one based on the movie is less well regarded)

According to director Wych Kaosayananda, co-star Antonio Banderas suggested Lucy Liu come on for the role of Sever after having previously worked with her on Play It to the Bone (1999). When the director had earlier read the script, he felt that it was rather similar to the films The Killer (1989) and Leon the Professional (1994), while actually visualizing that Chou-Yun Fat and Jean Reno could be perfect square-off leads. Franchise Pictures didn’t find either Fat and Reno financially viable though. (… Wait, Chow-Yun Fat and Jean Reno were too expensive … that’s weird. I wonder if it has to do with where they were filming)

The film started in the 1980s as a spec script by Alan McElroy, titled ‘Legion’, then ‘Gunner’. Vestron Pictures tried to make the movie in 1988, with Dwight H. Little directing and Dolph Lundgren starring, but Charles W. Fries didn’t want to do it. (Jesus, there are like seventeen version of this film billed as X vs Y, and all of them sound pretty amusing to be honest)

Roger Ebert included the film on his “Most Hated” list. (No doubt)

Some critics, bloggers and other movie viewers have compared this film to War (2007) due to it containing a similar storyline (disgruntled federal agent figuring out a conspiracy), people varying on the action scenes being exciting or not, both films being advertised as a versus film only for both lead stars to square off briefly on-screen and due to overwhelming dislike with both films. (Another film we have to watch)

“After casting, the real challenges started. We were going to shoot everything in Bangkok while we retouched the script to fit the location. Then the notes came in, and I won’t get into the details but there are only two things anyone needs to know about the changes that were made by request from the studio. One: In the original draft, Sever kidnaps Ecks’ son, and the whole time, the boy is basically kept in a kid-sized glass box just big enough for him to sit in, placed on top of a kilo of C4. That was changed. Two: There was no other motivation for the characters. It was all about family. Gant “kills” Ecks and takes his wife, Vinn, and their son, with both believing each other to be dead. Meanwhile, Sever wants revenge for the death of her family at the hands of Gant and his men. So, believing it was Gant’s son, she kidnaps him and Ecks springs into action. It was all about love and family and nothing else. The nano technology included in the final draft had nothing to do with what I wanted for the story. Granted, we had a fantastic writer. Franchise Pictures brought Peter Lenkov to rewrite Alan McElroy’s script and he did a great job with the instructions he was given. Yes, there were changes made that watered it down to my chagrin, but it was as satisfactory as it needed to be at the time and everybody was on board. Then, tragedy struck in September 2001 and we had to relocate from Bangkok to Vancouver for safety reasons. Those moving expenses ended up in cutting more action scenes out, but thankfully our terrific crew made things feel much easier.” (Wych Kaosayananda on changes made to the film) (Yeah, I guess it shouldn’t be surprising the production was a mess. To be honest, it sounds like 9/11 had a bigger impact that any of the production notes. I understand he wasn’t something different, but it doesn’t really sound like making a note of “don’t put a kid in a glass box on some C4” is that big of a deal)

“Well, I’ll try to explain this as best as I can: I did my first cut which as I understood it was just that-my first cut which was the script as shot and fine tuned. There were scenes I wasn’t sure of, but liked. And we also tested the movie; One scene in particular lost the audience and the experience wasn’t very good. It was a little heavy on melodrama, and I own that. I loved the scene, but also was afraid it wouldn’t work and could easily be cheesy. But again, I honestly felt that was what the tests were for, and I was wrong. We didn’t score well and based on that test, two producers who I was already having issues with for various reasons basically just took over the movie. I found out as I was on my way to the editing room two days after the test screening and just a day after having a big meeting with Warner Bros. executives and marketing people, who were terrific by the way. By the time I got to the edit suites, my editor was Caroline Ross, a wonderful person and a great editor, was also fired and replaced, after all those hours and weeks I spent with her. And I wasn’t too pleased to say the least. So, after consulting with my agents at CAA, it was decided it was best to just walk away quietly and they’d focus on getting my next job. I still had a great relationship with the executives at Warner Bros. I had things in development with Fox 2000 and RKO and we’d just move on. The problem was, I couldn’t. I’d shot an old school actioner in 2002 with the Steve McQueen classic Bullitt as my template. My DP and I had specific needs to be met with the way we shot it, especially when it came to all the action scenes I choreographed while working with Joel Kramer – one the best stunt coordinators in his field. But despite our best efforts, the movie was butchered to the point where certain shots were flipped because the edit no longer made sense. And yes, this also affected the sequencing and pacing of the action – it was horrible to watch. Just so you know, I had only ever seen the theatrical cut once with no audio, during the colour grade with Julio, my DP. At the premier I waited until the movie had been playing for thirty minutes before taking my seat. I did this because I knew the movie was bad. I pretty much hyperventilated for the whole evening.” (Wych Kaosayananda on producer’s interference with the film and his reaction with how it turned out) (Jesus. So the note is a bit confusing, possibly because of a language barrier. But, it seems like he couldn’t walk away because some of the action scenes were specifically templated a certain way, and without him they would have been butchered and nothing would have made sense and it would have besmirched his good name. Whoooooowwwweeeeeee)

Talisa Soto’s last acting role for 7 years until she appeared in La Mission (2009).

Part of Rotten Tomatoe’s Bottom 10 films that were poorly rated. The other nine are One Missed Call (2008), Pinocchio (2002), King’s Ransom (2005), National Lampoon’s Gold Diggers (2004) Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2 (2004), Strange Wilderness (2008), 3 Strikes (2000), Redline (2007) and Witless Protection (2008). (This will be our sixth, although this list is quite out of date. I can’t find an updated list)

Despite making several “bad movies of all time” lists, this film has never been nominated nor won any Razzie awards. (It was too unknown to be poked fun at … that isn’t a compliment)

The possibly only good review recorded to dare by a professional critic (yet wasn’t recorded on Rotten Tomatoes’ site) was a review for the Daily Herald by film critic Jean Carey. It was recorded on Sept. 20, 2002 and the headline was ” ‘Ballistic’ a great time at the movies.” (Ha, there is a whole article on this. So it looks like it isn’t on Rotten Tomatoes because the editor wrote it, not the movie critic, and they basically “covered” it with a new terrible review when they realized what they had done. Amazing stuff)

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