Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever – Lucy Liu should have been a Terminator

Rating films can be tricky here at Heroine Content. Our goal is to analyze how the films handle gender and race. When class, disability, national origin, or other issues come up in the films, we try to address those as well. That’s why our rating system has a descriptive label to go with each “star” level. We’re not just rating the films, we’re making a judgment call on how well the film does on the issues we care about.

However, we also want to be entertained. We don’t just review and rate these movies as part of our feminist and anti-racist homework. We love action movies, and we would love them even more if they would get their act together and stop being so damn offensive so often. So as we’re reviewing films, no matter how well a film handles race and gender, it’s hard to work up much enthusiasm when the film just sucks.

Dear readers, Ballistic really sucks.

If you’d even heard of it before now, I’m sure you knew this already, so I will not pause while I wait for this news to sink in. I really wanted to like this movie. Lucy Liu and Antonio Banderas are the (sub)title characters Sever and Ecks, both playing former government agents who kick ass. There are FIVE other people of color in speaking roles, one of them a woman. All of them are treated as actual people, not stereotypes. My pessimistic voice says this may be why it didn’t do well at the box office.

Then again, perhaps it didn’t do well because it’s a lifeless soap opera dressed up as an action movie. (My wife isn’t dead? No, but she thinks you are and so she married your enemy even though she was already pregnant with your child! Who is now infected with a nano-weapon! And he’s been abducted by a former employee of your enemy!) Whatever the reason for its fate, it sucks, and you should not see it. Just in case you’re on the fence, I will save you two hours of your life and one precious slot in your Netflix queue by revealing the one good bit of dialogue from this movie:

Banderas: Where did you get all this ordnance?

Liu: Some women buy shoes.

The only reason I can think of to see Ballistic is to realize that Lucy Liu should have been cast in T3 instead of Kristanna Loken. I’m totally serious. In the first half of Ballistic, Liu has the three characteristics that a Terminator should have to be taken seriously. She’s seemingly unstoppable, displays no emotion, and kills without hesitation. I was definitely afraid of her. Unlike Banderas’s character, who is supposed to be a badass superagent but really is just some guy with a five o’clock shadow who mumbles a lot.

Now granted, if Liu had been cast in T3 then she would have probably met the same fate as Loken. Liu in Ballistic is not overtly sexualized – they don’t exactly dress her in baggy fatigues, but it’s a far cry from Charlie’s Angels. Whoever dressed Loken, though, would probably have dressed Liu. And it could have gotten worse, since I wouldn’t put it past the T3 people to throw in some ethnic stereotypes as well. But if I could selectively mash T3 and Ballistic together in my DVD player, I think I would get a fairly decent movie out of it.

If Ballistic were entertaining, I would give it four stars. Unfortunately, I don’t think a film can be a Greatest Hit if it’s a sucky movie. So I would give it three, for a Strong Contender based on its casting. But honestly, it feels a lot more like a So Close. All the ingredients are there as far as diversity and respect, but it didn’t move me. Such a shame.

This post was originally published on Heroine Content, a feminist and anti-racist movie blog that ran from July 2006 to May 2012.

3 thoughts on “Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever – Lucy Liu should have been a Terminator

  1. d

    thanks for the review! that really does suck considering when I saw the trailer eons ago, I thought this might be really good.

    It’s funny because I actually felt the same way about another movie you reviewd a while back: Ultraviolet. I only saw this film recently on cable, and I really did like most of the action scenes. The final battle was quite weak – and seemed like a great idea…on paper. But many of the earlier scenes were actually well done, I thought. And while the death toll was high, I was glad they didn’t shy away from it because she was a woman (I really felt they did that to Elektra – and to the movie’s detriment).

    But dear gosh, as a film it was just horrible! I didn’t even want them to speak, I wished she was a mute, and just beat up a lot of people !

    Is it that hard to have a good action film…with a female lead or co-lead….and have it be decent?? Yeesh!

    I still might give it a look though….on free cable! :)

    thanks for the review.

  2. Gillian

    Thought you might like to know that role of Sever was supposed to be played by a man. I don’t have any details. It’s just something I saw in an interview back when this was coming out.

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