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!