I Finally Watched 'Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever'

Photo: Warner Bros.

I was completely out of the loop when it came to Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever, a film predominantly known at this point as the worst reviewed movie of the last decade by RottenTomatoes standards. So, when I decided I would follow in the footsteps of my previous look at Skyline and regularly take a look back at movies considered to be among the worst ever that I had not yet seen, there was no better place to start.

In short, yes, this is a bad film. Terrible in fact. Is it the worst? That's all relative to the discussion. Worst in what way? Plot? Characters? Execution? Entertainment? In all honesty, this is a film I would consider a perfect entry in a new age of grindhouse. All I could think of while watching the inexplicable amount of explosions, lack of story and silly predicaments was of Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror and how he parodied films that left no object intact and a scene wasn't over until everything was charred and destroyed. The difference, of course, is that Planet Terror still had a story... Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever has a story, but I'll be damned if it's ever fully explained or even understood by director Wych Kaosayananda and screenwriter Alan B. McElroy (Wrong Turn).

Let's look at it a little closer...


Photo: Warner Bros.

It seems somewhat coincidental the first installment in my "I Finally Watched" series was Skyline with which brothers Greg and Colin Strause decided to direct under the name Brothers Strause. Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever features yet another director unwilling to go by his given name in the credits. While Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever is presented as "A Wych Kaosayananda Film" the end of the credits sequence simply says "Directed by Kaos" which can't be a good sign unless we're referencing a talking fox in an abstract Lars von Trier film.

Anyway, Kaos has directed two films in his illustrious career. The first was a 1998 Thai film called Fah. Unfortunately I can't find a trailer or even an image from this film though Wikipedia says that "at the time [it] was the highest-budgeted film in the history of the Thai film industry but failed in the Thai box office." Nevertheless, this son of a famous Thai diplomat went on to direct Ballistic for Warner Bros. with a reported budget of $70 million... It would go on to make $19.9 million worldwide and Kaos would most certainly not reign.


Where do you begin when it comes to the plot? The official synopsis? Let's have a look at that shall we...

This is a story of two spies, who are lifelong adversaries, engaged in a cat-and-mouse hunt. Jonathan Ecks (Antonio Banderas) is an FBI agent hunting the other, Sever (Lucy Liu) a rogue NSA agent. What they learn, however, while trying to kill each other... is that they might be on the same side, and faced with a threat greater to each other than themselves.

If you've seen this film you already know that plot synopsis is a lie. You also know the title of the film is a lie. The reason it's a lie, though, is because to piece this film together into a short description without giving away how stupid and incomprehensible it is would be utterly impossible. Here, have a look, and I'm sorry, but there is no way to avoid spoilers in this case...

Lucy Liu plays Sever, a former Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) agent and she has kidnapped the son of Robert Gant (Gregg Henry). Why? Well, because of a little thing called nano-technology. That and the fact she got pregnant and that wasn't good for... uh, well, that doesn't really matter until after Sever has killed only God knows how many people, escapes and her and Ecks rendezvous on some freighter... but I'm getting ahead of myself...

Gant is the DIA director and he is under investigation by the FBI for the possible theft of a piece of nanotechnology that could kill someone and be "totally undetectable". At least, so says Julio Martin (Miguel Sandoval) an FBI boss in charge of bringing Gant in. The piece of technology was stolen by AJ Ross (Ray Park), a man Julio says is nicknamed "The Prince of Darkness" (which is hilarious because it's stupid and because it's never mentioned again). This is where the whole detection capabilities of this piece of technology comes into play. After stealing the device Julio says they performed a "thermal scan" on Ross and his men at an airport in Germany and they couldn't find the "undetectable device". Which would makes sense, since he already said it was undetectable.

The undetectable nano-technology is detected
Photo: Warner Bros.

Unfortunately, the same device is later detected in the body of Gant's son, Michael, by Sever after she kidnaps him. Those damned undetectable devices, they're so detectable.

Anywho, Martin decides to bring in Jonathan Ecks (Antonio Banderas), a former FBI agent, to help them with the case. Why a former agent? Why Ecks? Well, there's reason for that but when Julio tells Ecks he will be looking for Robert Gant he doesn't show him a picture of the guy. Instead he says, "A shadow government in the name of national security is still a shadow government." WHAT!?!?!? WHAT DOES THAT MEAN JULIO?!?!

See, had Julio shown Ecks a picture of Gant, you know, the director of an actual U.S. Agency -- Lieutenant General Ronald L. Burgess, Jr. is the current director, here's a picture and a bio -- he would have recognized him as the man that tried to have him killed, faked his own death and is now married to Ecks's wife, whom he thought died in a car-bomb double-cross. What the what?!?

Good riddance you filthy windows
Photo: Warner Bros.

Of course, that revelation is saved for later as the FBI and DIA wage war in the streets of... nope, not New York. Nope, not Los Angeles. If you guessed Vancouver, Canada you'd be right! Yes, American agencies are laying waste to Canadian shopping malls where Sever decides to do a little afternoon shopping. I guess because she wanted a Hot Dog On a Stick.

However, it is after this international disaster that Ecks and Sever have their first face-to-face and Ecks reveals he's looking for his wife and after about 50 minutes Ecks finds what he's looking for... and she is indeed alive! So when the plot says Ecks and Sever are "lifelong adversaries" that's not true, unless there are FBI vs. DIA death matches I don't know of. So adding the subtitle "Ecks vs. Sever" makes no sense. Ballistic really makes no sense either, but it's serviceable.

It should have been called Baby Mama Still Alive or America Wages War on Canadian Shopping Malls. At least those titles give a heads up to an audience member as to the insanity that will soon unfold.


The art of the assisted suicide
Photo: Warner Bros.

Moving on...


I can't say I really blame the actors for deciding to star in this film. Liu and Banderas obviously saw it as a payday, but it is interesting to note where their careers went from here.

Banderas has obviously fared the best, especially as of late with a role in Woody Allen's You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, Pedro Almodovar's The Skin I Live In, Steven Soderbergh's Haywire and Black Gold for Jean-Jacques Annaud on top of offering his voice to Puss in Boots for the Shrek franchise as well as the feline's own upcoming spin-off. What may be a bit more embarrassing is the money grab as he supplies the voice for the animated bee in those Nasonex commercials.

Lucy Liu's career isn't as impressive as he last notable film role in a live-action feature was Kill Bill: Vol. 1, since then she's served as the voice in the Kung Fu Panda and Tinker Bell animated franchises as well as a few other animated features. I guess it's never a good sign when your character is named in a film's title and after 38 minutes all you've said is, "Run", "You kill me, you kill Gant's son" and "Let me see your hand."

Ray Park is probably best known as Darth Maul in Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace had a nine-episode run on "Heroes", played Snake Eyes in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra and will be returning for G.I. Joe 2.

Otherwise, Miguel Sandoval and Gregg Henry, are pretty much saved for television work.


Photo: Warner Bros.

The legacy of Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever seems to have delivered two well-reviewed Game Boy Advance video games and a film everyone considers one of the worst films of all-time.

Among some of the notable lowlights, the reverse-engineered gun I montaged above was hilarious and the "Ahh, ahahh ahh ah ah... Ooh ah ahhh, uh ahaaaa uh ahhhh" score by Don Davis (The Matrix trilogy) was increasingly grating... give the main titles a listen to the right if you dare.

The action was ridiculous and the dual car flip over Ecks after he falls off his bike had to have been intentionally stupid.

Considering this film has been out for nine years I'm happy I can finally say I've seen it and can reference it on occasion, but at this point even that seems like it would be just as needless as the film itself.


I want to make this a regular column where I sit down and dissect some of the worst films in history, and I want you to be a part of it. So, I am taking suggestions... what film should I watch next?

The only stipulation is that I am going to make sure it's a film I have not seen and I am going to begin putting together a list of widely considered terrible movies and noting the ones I've yet to submit myself to... So, since that list isn't yet put together here are a few I thought of off the top of my head that I have not yet seen:

  • Alone in the Dark (2005)
  • Babylon A.D. (2008)
  • Battlefield Earth (2000)
  • Boat Trip (2003)
  • Christmas with the Kranks (2004)
  • Daddy Day Camp (2007)
  • Delta Farce (2007)
  • Down to You (2000)
  • Fear Dot Com (2002)
  • Glitter (2001)
  • King's Ransom (2005)
  • Miss March (2009)
  • My Baby's Daddy (2004)
  • Redline (2007)
  • Rollerball (2002)
  • Son of the Mask (2005)
  • Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li (2009)
  • Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2 (2004)
  • Swept Away (2002)
  • The Adventures of Pluto Nash (2002)
  • The Hottie & the Nottie (2008)
  • Witless Protection (2008)

Your suggestions don't have to be from that list, but I thought it would help... Now, do you have any thoughts on Ballistic and what should I decide to torture myself with next?

  • maja

    Boy, that sounds like one trainwreck of a movie!!
    My suggestions for the next one (become I'm curious about these films) is Baby Genuises 2, Manos: The Hands of Fate, and Battlefield Earth.

  • m1

    Does it have to be one of the worst reviewed in history? Because I would really want you to do The Bounty Hunter.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/ Brad Brevet

      Nope, just generally agreed upon bad movies.

      • ENOLA


        • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/ Brad Brevet

          I've seen Gigli, here's my old review. Don't make too much fun of me, that was the first year I started writing reviews. :)

  • MKing

    Where's Easy A on that list?

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/ Brad Brevet

      I've seen Easy A, and enjoyed it.

      • MKing

        Thanks for responding.

    • m1

      Are you kidding me?

    • Älskling

      He's not he only one. It's an enjoyable flick.

    • viral

      I thought Easy A was great

  • Mr Pink

    Baby Genuises 2!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • bravernat

    Brad, I'm not sure if you've seen Freddy Got Fingered, but I definitely see it as the worst movie of all time.

    • zyzygy

      That's my #1 pic.

      • maja

        Gotta agree with this - Freddy Got Fingered is the worst movie that I have ever seen.

    • http://okinawaassault.wordpress.com/ Paolo

      Lies! I am so not proud of you for talking about Freddy Got Fingered that way. It as great as watching Pink Flamingos.

      Back on topic, if it's any consolation, Antonio Baderas has a good reputation on Broadway and is working with Almodovar again. The latter got everyone to take Penelope Cruz seriously in Hollywood again, might work for him.

    • Rob

      Boy, Freddy is an endlessly peculiar movie but I don't feel it is even in the neighborhood of worst ever. On the contrary, I feel it has some downright Bunuel-ian moments. But the last act is so ugly and unpleasant that it does throw away all goodwill one can have for it. The worst is Battlefield Earth. Close second? Bad Boys 2.

  • Roger

    Pluto Nash. Please Brad, if you ever listen to me once in your life, let it be now. Watch Pluto Nash.

    You might actually go back and say: "Hey, Ballistic: Ecks vs Sever isn't so bad afterall" after watching Pluto Nash.

    I'm on my knees now. Please watch Pluto Nash lol

    • JonDoeSc

      And after watching Pluto Nash go and watch the Robot Chicken episode that pokes fun at Pluto Nash being green lit and then you may understand how bad it is or just watch the Robot Chicken episode and save yourself from the pain.

    • j_kad

      i agree. Pluto Nash should be one of the first... Battlefield Earth was also an awful sci-fi but Pluto Nash is unfathomably awful...

  • Winchester

    Gosh, I might just have to rent Ballistic now to see this car-crash of a film......................apart from that I haven't seen any of the other films that you have listed.

    I know that's not much help..................

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Aidan-Levi/1228888187 Aidan Levi

    The Room and Trolls 2.
    If you need any convincing of The Room just watch a clip of it from Youtube and you'll know why.

  • Älskling

    The more interesting choice would definitely be usually reliable director Guy Ritchie's Swept Away. Is it bad because it's a bad film, or is it bad because it's not up to snuff for a Guy Ritchie film?

    That also brings up another topic that might make for a lively discussion: When a good director falters.

  • Owen

    Heaven's Gate! Three-and-a-half hours of my life I will never get back....

  • Just Myself

    My vote for your next film would be Battlefield Earth, or if you somehow managed to miss it in '04, Alien Vs. Predator. Godawful films in their own right.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/ Brad Brevet

      Yeah, I've reviewed Alien vs. Predator, didn't hate it nearly as much as I hated the sequel. Here's my review from 2004.

  • JonDoeSc

    Leonard Part 6 and you will know why 1 through 5 were never made.

    Ed- Matt Leblanc and a monkey enough said

    White Out- Try not to think about the plot cause blood will begin to shoot out of your ears

    Rest Stop- Joey Lawrence asking the girl to kill him just made me laugh, is the wrong?

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/ Brad Brevet

      I have seen Whiteout, you can read my review here. Haven't seen the others though.

  • http://www.filmsroyale.blogspot.com Ken Wong

    Sherlock Bones

  • criterion10

    The remake of Psycho . . . probably my least favorite movie of all time. Either that Envy, or Alone in the Dark.

  • Rashad

    Chun Li definitely.

    Down to You isn't that bad.

  • http://fortheloveofmovies.wordpress.com Abe M

    looking at your list, I feel compelled to mention that I wouldn't enjoy reading dissections of films like Boat Trip or Miss March (comedies in general) mainly because I feel those films are less subject to bad filmmaking as they are to simple poor taste or lack of humor. Just thought I'd put in my two cents as a reader.

    In terms of suggestions two films that come to my mind completely out of nowhere are Biker Boyz and In the Mix.

  • m1

    You saw the One Missed Call remake from 2008, right? I remember you mentioning it, but I can't find a review on this site.

    • Joe

      yeah, one missed call is one of the worst

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/ Brad Brevet

      Yup, reviewed the Blu-ray.... here's the link.

  • The Dead Burger

    Superbabies 2 and Battlefield Earth are the absolute musts. Battlefield Earth in particular is the quintessential terrible movie in terms of actual studio productions - and I think you should stick more to studio films as opposed to woefully incompetent cult hits like The Room and Troll 2, which have both been done to death [one exception is Birdemic, because Birdemic is freakin' hilarious] and it's just more fun to laugh at real stars' horrific failures than to mock MST3K-style amateur action crap.

    Anyway, here are my votes:
    Howard the Duck
    Battlefield Earth
    Superbabies 2
    Freddy Got Fingered
    From Justin to Kelly
    ANY Uwe Boll movie

    ... Ah, screw it. You have to do The Room asap.

  • The Dead Burger

    Sorry for the double post, and you've probably seen it, but Batman and Robin is also a must if you haven't.

  • Joe

    plan 9 from outer space

    • CB

      Ed Wood is always great, he was the best at bad movies. Hope you are looking forward to the remake.

  • Brian

    Going off of your list, Son of the Mask gets my vote. I'd totally look forward to your review on that abomination of a movie. Jamie Kennedy trying to Jim Carrey-ify his acting is bad - epically so.

    I'd rather watch a 90 minute screen capture loop of Arnold's head inflating from Total Recall than SofM.

    Vomitous Maximus.

  • anonymouse

    Watch Battlefield Earth. I enjoyed it immensely, lotsa rewinding on that one, when I was a child so it cant be that bad.
    Then again the actual writer of the movie compared it to a train wreck.
    Hubba Hubba Hubba! Who do you trust?

  • http://2guysonemovie.blogspot.com/ Steve

    Two words: Sasquatch Hunters... The special effects are done with Flash

  • Paul

    Christmas with the Kranks isn't THAT bad... I didn't actually know it was so widely hated, but I would suggest Pluto Nash next, most certainly.

  • Marc

    Since your checking out some of the worst films, just today I saw a documentary about the worst film ever made and it has a cult following from it. It's called trolls 2, brad you gotta check that out.

  • http://isawpaulblartonce.wordpress.com/ Kyle

    Just saw Baby Geniuses 2 and yeah, that needs to be on the list. Also, I found National Lampoon's Pledge This! to be especially cringe-worthy.

  • Will

    I thought Miss March was actually kind of funny and Fear Dot Com seemed okay until the Ring came out (obvious rip off). Go for Boat Trip... Cuba's best movie since Snow Dogs

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/ Brad Brevet

      "Cuba's best movie since Snow Dogs" ... that made me laugh. Well done.

  • http://www.anomalousmaterial.com Red

    Shark Attack 3 is absolutely horrible. You'll enjoy watching it, at least. It's that bad.

  • Mason Williamson

    It would be gold to see you review The Room. However, the first one that comes to mind is Silent Night, Deadly Night 2. Troll 2 as well.

  • Joel

    THE GARBAGE PAIL KIDS MOVIE. Nuff said. You'll probably despise me after viewing it.

  • Leandro Dubost

    You've never seen Glitter???

    Oh man, you're in for a treat!!
    So good! I can't wait for Rodriguez to remake it!
    With Mariah Carey reprising her role, because her performance is what made that movie such an unforgettable piece of utter shit.

    And since I'm talking about pop singers going to the big screen... Try to watch Spice World. It's not as ridiculous as Glitter, but its very embarassing and makes the 90's look like the worst decade ever.

    • wubbledub

      I thought Spice World was a very fun and silly movie. It never tries to take itself seriously even to the point of making fun of itself. I always feel happy after watching it.

  • Jimmy Diamies

    Of what I have seen on that list and I've only seen 6 or 7 of them, Alone in the Dark is easily the worst. I haven't seen Ecks vs Sever but I would be shocked if it was worse than that one.

  • Topy

    Max Payne
    The Happening
    Rules of Attraction
    Dragonball Evolution

    I'll die before I see these movies again

  • Brian

    If you haven't seen Son of the Mask, then it sounds like you need to grab that, and also grab Ace Ventura Jr: Pet Detective for a night of bleeding from the eyes.

  • http://lifeinsideandrewshead.com Southard

    superbaby geniuses 2!!! i watched it once not knowing it's legacy, and oh man, i really was just in utter shock.

  • Sean

    The Room would be the number 1 bad movie I'd love to see you review.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Hoink-Douglas/707605174 Hoink Douglas

    I just think this is a horrible concept for a continuing series. When i saw it on the main page i thought "who really gives a shit" and the list you plan on using echo that sentiment. Why indulge in reading a breakdown of something that's horrible? Usually its been done as soon as the credits begin rolling on the eyes of critics and not years later.

    • Mason Williamson

      Some people, myself included, simply find it amusing to read a breakdown of films with practically no redeeming qualities. There are films that are so terrible that they just have to be seen and talked about. Not exactly in a "so bad it's good" kind of way - more of a 'how can something this terrible actually exist?' kind of way. I found this article to be hilarious at times (I got a few laughs out of the "undetectable device"), and I'm sure I'll feel the same about many more of the following articles.

      Personally, I think this is a great idea, and looking at all the other comments, I'm not alone. But to each his own.

  • loxmang

    kill switch with steven seagal... i dont need to say much more but this barfight scene... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VisXGMM6hBw&feature=related... uses the same closeups of his face about 4 times apiece, not to mention 2 cops stare at him while he beats a man with a hammer for a good 20 seconds.

  • loxmang

    oh yeah and Crossover was up there too... flat awful

  • cuteview

    You should watch The Pest...with John Leguizamo..That is the worst film EVER...

  • Amit

    NORBIT...one of the worst & disgusting i've ever seen...

  • Bill

    Swept Away. I've heard so much about it, but I have no idea how it could possibly be that bad, so I'm interested in your take

  • Sloan

    I know you said you would never watch it, but the Jack Black version of Gulliver's Travels simply has to be seen to be believed. I would love to see what you think of the "ending".

  • jesse

    Swept Away is likely to be the more interesting examples of a "bad movie", mainly because it's made an otherwise good to great director.

  • Grissom

    Home Alone 3
    The Room

    I have forsaken these forever.

  • clarke

    The worst movie has to be Punisher: War Zone

  • justin casey

    pluto nash should be next

  • justin casey

    or crossroads the britney spears movie can't believe no one's mentioned that one yet i liked it the first time i saw it but i was 9 and it was because i got to look at britney spears for 2 hours but i'm over it now

  • robert

    Try Far cry. Or pretty much any film by uwe boll

  • nick

    The Game Boy Advanced game was based on an early draft of the script. The filmed version was extensively rewritten by the studio using a ghostwriter and also retitled by the studio.

  • http://othercrap.com Scoop

    Pinocchio, starring Roberto Begnini, which is also rated a perfect 0 at Rotten Tomatoes. As one reviewer noted: "This is a monumental achievement in practically every facet of inept filmmaking: joyless, idiotic, annoying, heavy-handed, visually atrocious, and often downright creepy."

    I loved it!

  • Zachary R

    Brad! Perfect movie for you to do in your next installment...

    Dragonball Evolution

  • CS

    Ballistic is far from the worst. The title just falls due to "truth" in advertising and the plot adds up, it's the faking one's death that's pretty lame.

    I still dug the action though due to being straightforward and non-reliant on CGI like the Ultraviolet/Resident Evil/Underworld POS. Still worth a watch for the actors & Hong Kong cinema fans.

    As for the other films listed, yes, they deserve to be on the list and while Freddy Got Fingered isn't the worst, it sure as hell is anything but funny.

    And shame on anyone who loves the Travolta-Scientology sh!tfest. There's zero redeeming factors to be found there.

  • Surreal Droplet

    This movie isn't all that terrible. Personally, I really liked it. To each his/her own I suppose.