In this sci-fi action flick — which is also a Game Boy Advance shoot-’em-up — newly widowed former FBI agent Jeremiah Ecks (Antonio Banderas) plays a game of cat and mouse with trap-setting badass Sever (Lucy Liu). ”It’s a story about revenge,” says Thai director Wych Kaosayananda (making his U.S. debut), who shortened his name to Kaos ”for s—s and giggles” in college. ”But as Ecks pursues Sever, they find out they’re fighting the same enemy.”
Though both leads were originally written for men — at one point, Vin Diesel and Sylvester Stallone were in discussions to star — the director cast Banderas and Liu (who teamed up for 1999’s ”Play It to the Bone”) after watching them drop-kick their way through ”Spy Kids” and ”Charlie’s Angels,” respectively. ”[Those movies] were borderline camp,” he says, ”the nobody-takes-themselves-seriously kind of fun. We’re going for a more serious tone.”
And a more realistic one. An admitted F/X Luddite, Kaos refused to employ much CGI for visual verve, and instead relied on his stars to perform many of their own stunts. ”Antonio was game for a lot of the dangerous stuff,” he says, ”and Lucy performed in 98 percent of her fights.” He’s particularly proud of one sequence that finds Ecks running between two trains as a series of explosions approaches. ”Everybody that’s seen it thinks it was [filmed against a] bluescreen,” he brags. ”And it wasn’t.”
THE LOWDOWN Banderas and Liu are at their best playing action heroes, so if audiences can get past that title, ”Ballistic” could prove a sleeper hit.