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observation notes: Ballistica

Another week, another Asylum release; we should always be this lucky. This week it’s the action flick that’s been on The Asylum’s schedule since late last year, and now at last the release is upon us: ladies and gentlemen, I give you Ballistica.

So here’s the set-up: “Ballistica,”  it seems, is more than just a fancy title - it’s a hybrid form of martial arts combining weapons training and hand-to-hand combat; think tai-chi with guns. CIA Operative Damien (Paul Logan), is the world’s foremost practitioner of this new fighting style, making him our government’s best defense against terrorism all sizes. When that terrorism turns towards something called “genetic implosion” - it’s as bad as it sounds - they’re going to need all the defense they can get.

What follows is a film that’s part political-thriller, part action-spectacle, part martial-arts display, and even bit of good, old-fashioned hero-worship-turned-impromptu-romance.

Paul Logan as Damien brings the fierce, angrily-confident capability we expect of him, plus an extra, hearty dose of badass. Mega Piranha is probably the closest to an all-out action flick as I’ve seen him in, but this one is even more all-out, and this guy is a bona fide star. He’s got everything an action hero requires: grizzled good lucks, a gruff exterior over a genuinely righteous heart, a voice that could grate stone, amazing physicality and like, 0% body fat.

Martin Kove as Damien’s “handler,” I guess, plays it calmer than I’m used to seeing him, but no less intense, which is only a testament to the actor’s power no matter what the emotion. His embroidered vest, however, I could have done without.

Robert Davi as the liaison between the Ballistica program and governmental higher-ups is also more restrained than usual, a cool, calm and calculating administrator, quietly honorable. The scenes with these two together were like the B-movie equivalent of the diner scene in Heat, but, you know, an actual payoff.

Other cast standouts include C.B. Spencer as “Alexa,” the beautiful scientist who never realized the dangers of her research now aiding in its destruction, Andrew Divoff (”LOST”) as “Dragomir,” the evil Russian mastermind - a respected character actor with a long history of greatness, this guy’s an evil chameleon; you give him the villain, he’ll knock it out of the part. Here is no exception. Also notable, the lovely, formidable and probably quite dangerous stunt woman/actress Lauren Mary Kim as “Fang.” Think Nia Peeples meets Morena Baccarin with the disposition of Jason Statham.

I’m hard-pressed at the moment to think of another straight-up government-oriented action-thriller in The Asylum’s catalog (that isn’t tinged with sci-fi, horror or disaster elements) and I, for one, hope Ballistica isn’t the last. Direct-to-DVD action films are practically as common as direct-to-DVD horror films, and as such, are pretty hit-and-miss. But this was upscale in my book - smart, intense, action-packed - and there should be more like it. The FX were plausible, the action sequences well-choreographed, the story intriguing, all adding up to a slick spectacle that barely gives you time to blink, let alone breathe. 


The action movie has changed a lot over the last few decades, to the point that most all these days come heavily loaded with political rhetoric; we live in a “Bourne” world, just guns and bad guys alone aren’t going to cut it anymore, but too often these films come imbalanced one way or the other - either there’s too many explosions and no story, or it’s all story with only a few action sequences. Ballistica, for my money, does a nice job of striking this balance, filling the space between its action sequences with just enough explanatory exposition to satisfy our instinctual need for narrative continuity. Hats off to director Gary Jones and writers Tony Kandah and Sean Rourke for pulling it off. When you figure in great acting and taut action sequences, if you’re a fan of the genre, you’ll be a fan of Ballistica.

1 comment:

  1. Seems like it's an non-scifi version of 'Equilibrium', awesome film by the way. The 'dancing lead hail of death' was a big point in that film as well. But it was more a statement on the ideal of fascism and sorta/kinda religion than a more straight politico/action shoot em up. If my memory serves (havent seen the film in nearly 10 years) and every time it's on I miss it, like this morning.

    Been looking forward to this one since they put it up on their site announcing it.