Sunday, 29 May 2011



Beware of films where the director has been credited with a wacky abbreviation or nickname. Into this category we can obviously put McG, real name Joesph McGinty Nichol. Obviously it doesn't make a blind bit of difference whether Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle has the name Joseph Nichol or McG on the front of it: it's still going to be rubbish, but at least the warning flags are up in advance. (In McG's defence, I'll confess I rather enjoyed Terminator Salvation.) Then there's Jean-Christophe Comar, who for years has worked under his childhood nickname of Pitof and it again sets the alarm bells clanging when you see it on the poster for Catwoman. You never get this kind of thing with proper directors: Saving Private Ryan isn't billed "Directed by Uncle Morty" (apparently Gwyneth Paltrow's nickname for him). Ingmar Bergman never reached into a Scrabble bag and decided he was going to be credited as Yompo for his entire career.

In the case of Ballistic: Ecks Vs Sever, we have the mysterious and mystical sounding Kaos. The name of a rock band or a minor deity, perhaps, but it's actually short for the Thai director Wych Kaosayananda. "Kaos" obviously gives the sense that there's going to be havoc, anarchy and mass destruction on the screen, and there certainly is, but that's all except for a braindead plot in which Lucy Liu kidnaps the son of evil Gregg Henry who's planning to use robotic nanotechnology to usher in the New World Order, and unshaven former agent Antonio Banderas is sent to stop first her and then him. It is absolute drivel and basically consists of various combinations and orders of fight, chase and explosion for 87 minutes, mostly backed by thumpy techno music (incidentally spawning soundtrack albums for both the songs and the score).

Despite the knuckle-headed stupidity, I'd be lying if I said I didn't occasionally find it to be fun, if utterly mindless fun. It's always good to see Gregg Henry, who used to be a regular in vintage Brian de Palma films and doesn't appear on our screens anywhere near enough, and in a decent sized role. Ray Park shows up as his henchman, and is frankly pretty bad; Talisa Soto is at least better than she was in her big break appearance in Licence To Kill, although the Dalton years of Bond were not good for actresses in general (the replacement Moneypenny literally sends me running to the next room).

Ballistic: Ecks Vs Sever is entirely empty and hollow: there's nothing in it at all, just things blowing up and people firing guns and karateing each other. I know the movie wasn't conceived as a cerebral exercise but there no law that says you can't have a little bit of intellectual meat in amongst the crash bang wallop: what emotional content there is is even more absurd than the constant explosions and running gun battles. And I'm not asking for the dramatic weight of Ibsen or Chekhov, but it would be nice to have something other than the flashing lights and pretty colours: you might as well sit in front of a strobe. Still, as imbecilic action movies go, it's fairly short and has a far better cast than it deserves. That's pretty much all it has going for it.


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