In The IMDB.O. List, ScreenCrush editor-in-chief Matt Singer watches every single movie on the Internet Movie Database’s Lowest Rated Movies list to determine whether they truly are the worst movies ever made. Previous chapters can be found here.

Movie #4: Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever (2002)

Director: Kaos
Writers: Alan B. McElroy
Release Date: September 20, 2002
U.S. box office: $14.3 million
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 0 percent (0!)
Metacritic score: 19
Letterboxd average grade: 1.6
CinemaScore: B-
IMDb Bottom 100 Ranking: 77

Is This Movie Bad?

Ballistic Ecks vs Sever
Warner Bros.

I’m having a hard time believing the words as I type them but … it’s not that bad.

How Bad Is It?

Ecks Vs Sever
Warner Bros.

Don’t get me wrong. Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever isn’t a good movie (and it’s an even worse title). I can’t recommend anyone watch it. But compared to some of the movies I’ve already watched in this column, it’s practically 2001: A Space Odyssey. Its Wikipedia page “boasts” that “with a total of 116 reviews, the highest for a film with a 0 percent score, Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever is the worst reviewed film in the history of Rotten Tomatoes.”

This is a good reminder that Rotten Tomatoes doesn’t measure a movie’s quality; it measures a movie’s consensus. A Rotten Tomatoes 0 does not mean a movie is an irredeemable piece of garbage. (It might also mean that, but it doesn’t mean it automatically.) Instead it means that every critic who reviewed the movie disliked it. They might hate it, or they might just think it was meh. In my case, I would rate Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever rotten, just like I would rate The Oogieloves in the Big Ballon Adventure rotten. But I would rather watch Ecks fight Sever every day for a year while my dog barked in my face than watch those f—ing Oogieloves sing about their fish one more time.

Ecks vs. Sever plot is dumb, some of the acting is atrocious, the soundtrack might as well have been released under the title Now That’s What I Call the Worst Music of the 2000s Vol. 1, and scene after scene is filled with pointless, wanton destruction. (The movie’s budget is listed online at $70 million and it looks like they spent $68 million of that amount on pyrotechnics.) That said, most of the pointless wanton destruction is well-filmed by the appropriately self-named Kaos (real name Wych Kaosayanada; Kaos is his given name, it was given to him, by him). There’s even a few genuinely innovative shots. I don’t think I have seen the bit from this sequence where a sniper falls from his perch and the camera falls to the ground with him, even as he crashes into the roof of a parked car, in any other action film before or since.

Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever: Dawn of Explosions also has a surprisingly committed lead performance from Antonio Banderas as former FBI agent Jeremiah Ecks. Lost in a drunken stupor after the death of his wife, Ecks gets coaxed back into service with the promise of information on exactly who killed his family and why. Eventually, he learns that another secret agent named Sever (Lucy Liu) holds the key to the truth — and that she also holds the son of an important bigwig in the American intelligence community. If Ecks finds the boy and stops Sever, he might get the information he wants.

This is all very silly, and it gets even sillier when the film starts unveiling a series of twists that are somehow both incredibly ludicrous and incredibly obvious. Banderas, consummate pro that he is, treats it all like Shakespeare, and imbues Ecks — who, again is named Ecks — with a bone-deep pain and weariness. In a wardrobe of flattering overcoats and messy bangs, he also strikes the perfect figure of a tragic hero. (Banderas generally doesn’t get the credit he deserves as an action star who can bring both raw physicality and genuine emotion to rock stupid material.)

Lucy Liu doesn’t fare nearly as well as Banderas; she’s going for the strong silent type and instead comes across as quietly blank. Outside of the scenes where she’s shooting people or blowing stuff up, though, her scenes are fairly minimal, and Banderas is rarely far from the screen. His performance, along with Kaos’ occasional flashes of visual inventiveness, aren’t enough to redeem the whole movie, but they were enough to keep me alert and attentive throughout, as opposed to wishing desperately for the sweet release of death like I was during something like The Oogieloves.

Does It Belong On a List of the Worst Movies Ever Made?

Ecks Vs Sever
Warner Bros.

Honestly? Probably not! If I manage to make it to the end of this project without surgically removing my own eyeballs, there’s no way Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever winds up higher than 90 out of 100. If by some miracle it does, that means there’s way more decent movies on the IMDb’s worst movies list than I originally anticipated.

Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever is currently available to rent on numerous websites and platforms. Next week on The IMDB.O. List: The third dimension is terror — but not on home video.

My Personal Ranking of the IMDB.O. List So Far From Worst to Least Crappy

  1. The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure
  2. The Master of Disguise
  3. The Avengers
  4. Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever

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