Monday, October 10, 2011

Review: BALLISTICA (2009)

For the last few years, I've been watching the many sci-fi mockbusters and megamonster movies of The Asylum and thinking that Paul Logan, who has had supporting or co-starring roles in many of the studio's productions (TERMINATORS, MEGAFAULT, MEGA PIRANHA, et al) would make a great 80's-styled action hero. He's ruggedly good looking, physically fit, has some mad fighting skillz, and even some genuine screen presence. But The Asylum has never released a straight-forward, contemporary action flick... until now. And that action flick, BALLISTICA (2009), is a genuine star vehicle for the aforementioned Mister Logan.

About time. But... was I right? Does Logan make a good action hero? Let's see....

Logan is "Damian," a CIA agent trained in ballistica, a form of martial arts that combines hand-to-hand combat moves with gunplay - a sort of  "gun-fu, " if you will. As the movie opens, he's on a one-man raid of some sort of scientific facility in Russia, where he is searching for a deadly "micropulse warhead," a "genetic bomb" that causes people in its blast radius to literally explode, while leaving structures and technology unscathed. Unfortunately, the weapon isn't there, and all he gets away with is a pretty American physicist named Alexa (C.B. Spencer) who claims she didn't know what she was working on. Turns out that the warhead is in the hands of a dangerous terrorist named Dragomir (Andrew Divoff, LOST, THE WISHMASTER), so Damian is ordered by his C.I.A. superiors (Martin Kove, KARATE KID and Robert Davi, LICENCE TO KILL, MANIAC COP 2) to hunt down the mad Russian and retrieve the weapon, with Alexa at his side.

I wish I could say that BALLISTICA's a great little action movie, but unfortunately, that's not the case. It doesn't suck, but an espionage action flick should have some scope and a strong forward momentum, and BALLISTICA doesn't have that. The best spy thrillers have their heroes jetting around the world to exotic international locales, but this one stays firmly planted in L.A., even when the filmmakers would have us believe otherwise. The low budget and reliance on cheap CGI for explosions, muzzle flashes, flying bullets and other pyrotechnics, undercuts the film's effectiveness, especially since the action scenes as a whole are underwhelming. Logan's got some decent moves, but it's clear that most of his opponents don't, leading to some lethargically-paced and blandly-choreographed fights. The titular martial art, ballistica, is also unimpressive, with one scene consisting of two "masters" just running at each other, firing pistols wildly while pretending to dodge CGI bullets.

There is a pretty fair car chase in the final act, though.

As for the script - well, screenwriter Sean Rourke does try to give Damian some backstory and angst, but all the other characters are stock, and their motivations shallow. The third act "twist" is telegraphed early, and the dialogue seems cribbed from episodes of 24 and ALIAS. Logan is perfectly adequate as the stoic, heroic lead, while Kove and Davi (both of whom also have producer credits) manage to bring some dramatic weight and professionalism to their primarily office-bound scenes.

The DVD from the Exclusive Entertainment/Hollywood Wizard label presents BALLISTICA in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, with a flawless transfer that properly showcases the sharp, colorful digital videography. The audio track is available in 5.1 or 2.0 mixes. Extras include a "Making Of" featurette and the usual assortment of Asylum previews.

While I think that BALLISTICA is a bit of a misfire, it does have its good points, and I still think that Logan has the potential to be a good B-action leading man. Maybe if someone could slot him into a "lone wolf cop" flick or a "one man vs terrorist gang" DIE HARD-type role, he might actually get a chance to show his chops. But a micro-budget spy flick like BALLISTICA, which hasn't the resources to exploit its more complicated & fantastic plot elements, doesn't seem to be the right vehicle.

BUY: Ballistica

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