We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.

When you call yourself Kaos, you’re just asking for trouble. Especially if you’re an amped-up director with a fetish for fireballs and an allergic reaction to such nagging filmmaking intangibles as plot, dialogue, and acting. Kaos should have stuck with his full Thai name: Wych Kaosayananda. At least that would have cut down on the most obvious cracks against his absurd Hollywood debut, the inane and mislabeled Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever. Disgruntled FBI agent Ecks (a hairy Antonio Banderas) and mysterious killing machine Sever (a relatively quiet Lucy Liu) spend most of the movie working in tandem to stop a generic baddie (Gregg Henry, looking like nothing more than a really mean preppie) who’s developed a heart-stopping metal cootie. Kaos is the anti-storyteller, and his debilitating addiction to crash, boom, bam leaves this weak actioner with scant droppings of exposition. The confusion commences early on, when haggard Jeremiah Ecks, mourning the death of his wife and the disappearance of his razor, is approached by a shady government goon for a dangerous mission. Or at least I think it’s dangerous. Their conversation—which should establish backstory, character development, some semblance of order—goes a little something like this: “We need to talk.” “The answer is no.” “What happened to your head?” “Bad haircut.” Who knows? Somewhere in between those brilliant lines could have been a pretty good story about wives who really aren’t dead and kids who just might be sons and why Liu’s loner lives in the Batcave and feeds a preteen hostage macaroni and cheese. Though Banderas looks desperate and wimpy while wheezing through the flashpot mayhem, Liu, supposedly playing a Zen-like force who “doesn’t miss,” pretty much just blows shit up, damn all aim and intent. (At least she looks sexy doing it.) And so on, and on, with the nonsense: The villains grunt directives such as “We need Sever alive”—and then try to pump her full of an endless supply of lead. It’s no surprise that Kaos shows the most restraint during the flick’s centerpiece: As Ecks rides the top of an out-of-control black prison bus and fires a newfangled elephant gun into the sky, Sever zips through the flames on a motorcycle, her hair doing a cool Clairol thing. The scene ends when myriad vehicles collide, Ecks plows through a wall of flame, and two sleek black sedans pirouette—in perfect unison and in the slowest of slo-mo—like white-walled ballet dancers. Outta nowhere comes this strangely peaceful moment—and the only time this kaotic mess is anything but. —Sean Daly