leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh
Guns, knives, explosives and fists of fury feature prominently in this non-stop action picture, the U.S. debut of youthful Thai director Wych Kaosayananda, who bills himself as Kaos. Both Agent Jeremiah Ecks (Antonio Banderas) and Agent Sever (Lucy Liu) once worked for the shadowy Defense Intelligence Agency, but now Ecks is retired, demoralized by the murder of his wife, Vinn (Talisa Soto), and Sever is a loose cannon who's kidnapped the small son of slimey power broker Robert Gant (Gregg Henry, who looks eerily like a living comic book character). Ecks's old boss, Julio Martin (Miguel Sandoval), persuades him to reenter the game by telling him Vinn is still alive and promising additional information after Ecks captures Sever, rescues the boy and figures out what Gant and his lackey, Agent Ross (Ray Park), have done with the micro-weapon they just stole from a German lab. And so it's spy vs. spy: Sever and Ecks use firearms, motor vehicles, miscellaneous blunt objects and bare hands to whale on each other, breaking only to fill in scraps of back story that are meant to make us care about them. But for all the sundered families, bereaved mothers and mourning spouses, there's not a shred of genuine feeling in the entire film. Kaos proves himself a competent action director who can stage a scene so you actually know where everyone and everything is in relation to everyone and everything else. But he hasn't learned to make you care: Sitting through this non-stop string of fight sequences is like watching an arcade game aimlessly playing itself. (Gameboy's Ecks vs. Sever game is already into its second iteration.) From the time it was announced in 1999, a who's who of action-oriented names have been mentioned in connection with the project, including Jet Li, Wesley Snipes, Vin Diesel, Sylvester Stallone, Michelle Yeoh and Chow Yun-Fat. Banderas brings a certain scruffy presence to his role (though his best efforts to humanize the clichéd character are defeated by the relentless mayhem), but the tiny, impassive-faced Liu is a disaster. She looks cute in her custom commando gear, but she's not actress enough to make Sever's ridiculous, faux hard-boiled dialogue sound like anything but the formulaic nonsense it is.