Ballistic: Ecks Vs. Sever

You can pinpoint the exact moment action movies started to suck as badly as they do today, and that point would be Ballistic: Ecks Vs. Sever.

Once upon a time, some dude got drunk and described the concept of an “action movie” to another guy at a bar. That guy, already tipsy, went to the local liquor store thinking; “How hard could it be?” He bought a handle of Jack Daniels, drank it, wrote a screenplay in crayon, and pitched it to Hollywood while hung over.

Somehow, he still managed to get this movie produced.

Antonio Banderas plays Jeremiah Ecks, down on his luck and unable find his wife because she got married to the master of evil, Robert Gant (veteran character actor Gregg Henry), a guy who intends to use nano-robots (AGAIN WITH THE GODDAMNED NANOROBOTS!) and Ray Park to do. . . something bad. No one ever says.

It starts out stupid, with Gant sending thugs from the DIA to pick up his son after he arrives home from Europe via a Gulfstream jet. If it doesn’t strain credibility that the kid just got back from Europe on his own Gulfstream, apparently we’re supposed to find the Defense Intelligence Agency scary. They’re the guys who copy-edit intelligence reports. They don’t have goons, and they certainly don't have an endless supply of masked mooks in "armored" vests that make the Storm Troopers look like they're behind three feet of steel. In transit, a Jedi Knight named Sever, played by with aggressive blandness by Lucy Liu, shows up and nabs the moppet in the hopes of moving the plot along.

No such luck, unfortunately.

Then some other DIA agents push up on Ecks as he’s polishing a bottle of Wild Goose or something at the local watering hole in Vancouver, Canada. Yes. The whole movie, supposedly chock full of American-flavored political intrigue, unabashedly takes place in Vancouver. They blackmail him back into action and we're off! The Ecks Vs. Sever thing only lasts for about thirty minutes before they realize that the real bad guy is the one wearing the Nazi-like trench coat.

Cliché after cliché is layered in every way possible. Liu uses ALL guns in slow motion, from the dinky P90 sub-machine gun to the massive M60 Light Machine Gun, made famous by Rambo. All of this is set to the The Crystal Method and bands that sound like them, for reasons probably more commercial than anything else.

The crowning achievement of this movie’s astonishing inability to get anything right is giving Ray Park a heavy speaking role and almost no martial arts scenes. If there’s one thing Ray Park can do, it’s Wu-Shu, and he looks like a complete tool when he’s either using a gun (because he’s a martial artist), or trying to be menacing (because he sounds like Davy Jones from the Monkees).

This movie is the patient zero of terrible modern action. Everything that makes this movie bad has ruined other movies since. At barely ninety minutes you feel you have run some sort of bad cinema marathon. Couple this with another amazingly bad misfire-like Ultraviolet and you have a recipe for a craptacular modern action night!

G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra

This film is not so much a movie as it's a series of vaguely related action set pieces with characters spewing catch-phrased references to the old cartoon and half remembered bits from the magazine article the writer snorted cocaine off of before the pitch meeting.

After a stupid flashback related to the main villain, but not related to rest of the film in terms of  tone, Duke (Channing Tatum) and Ripcord (Marlon Wayans) are in Kyrgyzstan, try to transport a dangerous nanotech weapon made by James McCullen (Christopher Eccleston).  The bad guys try to steal it and get thwarted by Duke with assistance of Snake Eyes (Ray Park, blissfully silent) and several other super troopers.

The "Joes" ask Duke for the nanite super weapon, to which he says, and I quote: "I'm signed for them!" but Dennis Quaid insists they give up the weapon. They eventually do on the condition they get to join this wacky international club house of do-gooders.

Meanwhile, the villains are plotting to take over the world with nanotech, specifically the NanomitesTM and replacing the American president (played by a British guy, Jonathan Price ) with professional impostor Zartan (Arnold Vosloo). Nanotechnology, as we've said, is fast becoming to modern movie plots what ACME was to Wile E. Coyote. They even use it to enhance their shock troops, who all dress like the psychos from the god-awful video game Army of Two .

G.I. Joe, a top secret organization was assembled from the best military members in the world.  They train in a massive top secret facility in the Sahara Desert and you can't have a facility like that without a stupid training montage.

In addition to a ton of errors in continuity the dialogue is mostly just buzz word laden gobbledygook. At one point the bad guys go on a mission to "weaponize" a war head.

Let that sink in.

The final battle of this movie takes place deep beneath the North Pole, and after a special guest appearance from the Coke-A-Cola polar bear, the Joes lay the C.G.I. smack down on Cobra in what could be one of the dullest final battle sequences since the Gungans won the Battle of Naboo . Speaking of Cobra, you know who plays Cobra Commander in this movie? Joseph Gorden Levitt. Yes. The indie film super-star. I assume he approached it the same way a lot of us would have: "Hell yeah I'll do a G.I. Joe movie! I loved that show when I was a kid!" signed paperwork sight-unseen, and now here we are.

Unlike previous G.I. Joe features, this one has a body count. A big one. I like how the movie is terribly silly with it's Scottish stereotyping ("You tossed the caber out of the park!"), it's bad makeup on the females-especially Scarlet (Ladies pinch, whores use rouge.) But almost 400 people die during the course of this picture, and there is no gravitas what so ever. This movie deserves all the mockery you can throw it, and along side the Transformers movies you'd have a great cavalcade on your hands.  You could call it "Pillaging Our Childhood," if that didn't sound all kinds of wrong.