Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever

tn_ballisticSo nice they named it twice for some reason? I actually was always curious to see what this BALLISTIC: ECKS VS. SEVER movie was all about, so those of you who voted it up in the SUGGESTIONS gave me that nudge I’ve been needing for years.

Antonio Banderas plays Jeremiah Ecks, an ex-FBI agent who went deep undercover and faked his death but also thought his wife was dead but she wasn’t but now he’s retired but they come to him and say his wife is actually alive and he should help them go after this kidnapper Sever (Lucy Liu) because she knows where his wife is. She took the son of innocent Talisa Soto (MORTAL KOMBAT) and rich asshole Gregg Henry (PAYBACK) and she keeps him in a big metal cage in a Batcave type underground lair but she seems to like him because she brings him cafeteria lunch trays loaded with good food like home made macaroni and cheese, Jello and Ding-Dongs, and he says “Thank you” politely.

At the beginning you actually don’t know it’s that convoluted, it seems elegantly simple, mostly an extended action sequence with Liu running around in black leather, blowing up cars, firing rockets, doing her CHARLIE’S ANGELS gymnastic-fu moves, having shootouts with SWAT teams from the tops of buildings. There’s something missing in the editing or something, it’s not great action, but it’s pretty cool because it’s from the age when you tried to show things clearly, and also when it was easier to not do things digital. In fact I don’t remember noticing anything computery in this, it’s a whole lot of practical stunts and pyrotechnics and stuff, way more than your average American action movie. Lots of cars crashing and flipping and getting torn apart.

There’s a real cool shot where a SWAT guy gets shot and falls backwards and the camera follows him in his slow motion Hans Grueber plummet all the way to landing on and smashing a parked car. I guess that had to be at least partly digital, but it looked good to me.

mp_ballisticIt’s funny, I guess I still think of Liu as a straight actress pretending to do action, because she was in that Ally McBeal show first before I saw her in this kind of stuff. But now that I think about it she’s done more than enough to be considered a legit action star. She does martial arts in CHARLIE’S ANGELS, CHARLIE’S ANGELS FULL THROTTLE, KILL BILL VOLUME 1, THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS and BALLISTIC, plus being in PAYBACK adds to her legitimacy.

She does more action here than acting. For the first half I was convinced this was the reason for the movie’s terrible reputation, and that it was unfair. It leans way heavier on action than almost all movies, and since the action is only decent and not THE RAID the professional non-action loving critics who were the only people who saw it gave it extra hell for being mindless nonsense. I figured it was one of those deals where they’re punishing it for its best qualities – if you edited out half of the good mayhem it would’ve seemed like a normal boring movie and the reviews would’ve been way less harsh.

But when it got to the part where it was all exposition and plot twist the hate started to make more sense to me. I think I genuinely don’t understand the story because as I understand it it makes no sense. It seemed to me like they were saying that Ecks faked his death (as part of going undercover?) and then did not know where his wife was, even though she stayed with the exact guy he left her with moments before blowing up his car to play dead. Even if for some reason he didn’t think to check there the whole reason he was faking his death had to do with investigating this guy played by Gregg Henry, so you’d think at some point in his investigation he would discover that his wife was now with Gregg Henry and has a kid with him. And I didn’t understand in the back story why at the beginning of the movie he thought his wife was dead.

I know some of you have apparently seen this since you wanted me to see it, so if you understand all this please explain it to me. To really follow it I might need a guy narrating, like in this clip of the video game it’s apparently adapted from:


Banderas isn’t all that compelling in the role, but he has two little acting moments that I enjoyed, both in the same room. One is him waiting for another agent, awkwardly sitting with the guy’s daughter:


The other one is his blase reaction when a bunch of cops kick the door in and point guns at him:


He doesn’t even flinch or stand up out of his chair.

Maybe people would’ve been easier on it with a different title. ECKS VS. SEVER is a little weird since it’s obvious from the beginning that they’re not on opposite sides and will team up rather than, you know, verse each other. And they don’t call her Sever very much. And Ecks is a weird last name. And more importantly BALLISTIC? Why two names? This is another one that reminds me of Ice-T’s The Iceberg: Freedom of Speech, Just Watch What You Say. But at least those were both cool titles.

At the beginning of the game I guess you gotta choose whether you’re Ecks or Sever. Maybe at the beginning of releasing the movie they shoulda chosen one of the titles.

The director is Wych Kaosayananda, who gets one of his credits as “Kaos” (note to Kaos: no last name is another easy way to attract smarmy dismissals. See: McG, Tarsem). He’d previously done a Thai movie called FAH and not much since. The writer is more prolific, he’s Alan B. McElroy. I don’t want to be a dick but these are the facts, he wrote the following movies: HALLOWEEN 4: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS, SPAWN, LEFT BEHIND, WRONG TURN, THE MARINE. But he did get a story credit on RAPID FIRE, arguably the best Brandon Lee movie. So it’s not all bad news.

I wish I could wholeheartedly stand up for this one. I can’t. Instead I’ll just say that it does have alot of action. It’s not as bad as they say. But most of they never really watch movies like this anyway.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, April 16th, 2013 at 3:16 am and is filed under Action, Reviews, Videogame. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

76 Responses to “Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever”

  1. I really had the same reaction. I liked the first half a lot, but then the “story” kicks in and I lost interest in the movie.

    Actionwise there are two scenes that I still remember: The mentioned one with the SWAT guy falling from a roof (I had to rewind that scene over and over, because it looked so cool) and one moment in the finale that looked like a blooper, when Banderas is running from some explosions, but one of them is suddenly going off right next to him and he is running through a fireball for a second or two.

  2. Hey, I was hoping for you to tell ME what the fuck was going on!!! lol

    I mean the first action scene is long but not very involving but I thought I knew what was going on then… BAM! Are there three factions here? Why does Liu know what she knows yet never seems to ever let Antonio know in any knowing manner? Then after all that mess the end is another big but not particularly exciting action scene that has some high tech tower lab in a train yard?

    Really, what is going on here? Is this a medium budget action movie like they don’t make any more, or is it expensive DTV? And why would Antonio trust Gregg Henry is the first place? He’s Gregg fucking Henry! How can so many bullets, bodies, rockets and vehicles be so uninvolving?

    Anyway I thought it was an interesting failure. You’re right, there is more action than in most action movies, why is that?

  3. The Undefeated Gaul

    April 16th, 2013 at 5:29 am

    Saw this a long time ago, but it was so bland that I remember almost nothing about it. One thing that sticks in my mind is a fight with Darth Maul, but only because it was so disappointing. Turns out Darth Maul is a lot less impressive when speaking with his own voice and not wearing Darth Maul make-up.

  4. The Crow is Brandon Lee’s best movie by far. By a long mile.
    I don’t have a problem with directors with one name, like Tarsen, because he’s indian, it is part of his real name and the rest of his name is quite hard to remember for a western person. But i do have problems with pseudonymums like Kaos because it reads terribly pretentious for a maker of a dumb shaloow action movie, or McG because that’s the type of nickname one has when a kid but looks utterly stupid on an adult specialy if that is going to be by which you are going to sign your professional work.
    Besides, Tarsen is actually a good director and Kaos and McG are not.

  5. To be honest, kaos seems like a pretentious pseudonym at first, but then you realize it’s just a shortened version of his real name that he probably chose because he thought the same people who make fun of M. Night Shyamalan’s name would make fun of “Kaosayananda”.

  6. Asimovlives lives! Where you been, man? I’ve had to be the crazy ranting motherfucker around here in your absence. It’s incredibly draining. I don’t know how you do it.

    As for BALLISTIC: ECKS VS. SEVER: REQUIEM: THE FINAL CHAPTER: PORT OF CALL NEW ORLEANS: FULL THROTTLE, I’ve never seen a movie so thoroughly piss away a full hour of pretty solid nonstop action. But what, you expect narrative coherence from a movie based on a video game about a walking hand?

  7. I was about ready to come to McElroy’s defense but I looked at his IMDB page and it’s really hard. However, Halloween 4 is a good movie and one of the better horror movie sequels.

  8. Have to post cos baffled at evil (trolling?) suggestions to watch this. I bought it, with like real money and time and all, so I was damn sure gonna watch it through once. Took 4 tries before I finally made it through without falling asleep. Having essentially watched it 4 times, and now read a review of it, I still don’t get it. Can’t thank you for this one.

  9. from what I understand the game was based on the movie, not the other way around, but the movie got delayed and the game wound up coming out first

  10. also, 2002 was a pretty awkward year, it was the year that “the 90’s” finally died off and we started to enter the whole “post 9/11” era and this is an example of a movie caught in that weird twilight where it wanted to be a cool post-The Matrix action flick and just wound feeling very awkward by 2002

    one thing I find interesting is that you can trace “the 90’s as a cultural movement through the X-Files, which started in 1993, the year that the 90’s really started to fully come into it’s own and ended in 2002, the year that the 90’s died for good

  11. Oh, you’re right. I thought the one that shows Antonio on the cover was based on the movie but that the other one was the basis. Wikipedia says the first game was based on an early version of the script. Weird.

  12. I always said thet the 80s ended in 1993, the year when SUPER MARIO BROS (the last 80s movie) and JURASSIC PARK (the first 90s movie) came out. I do agree with X-FILES.

  13. No mention of the manatee shot? I recall there’s one scene in the movie in an aquarium where a manatee is mugging for the camera behind a serious conversation. Pure hilarity.

  14. CJ Holden – yup, cultural movements don’t begin and end as soon as a new decade technically begins, it’s more fluid than that, the early 90’s were very 80’s esque, the “90’s” as we know it did not really being until Clinton entered office, similarly the “post 9/11 2000’s” ended in 2008 with the election of Obama and the collapse of the economy, which took people’s focus away from terrorists and the Iraq war for the most part, I don’t know what you would call the post 2008 era except that I think we’re still living in it more or less, we’ve yet to truly transition into the “2010s” just yet, but maybe soon….

    it’s a topic that I find very fascinating

  15. the 80’s began pretty damn quickly though, as soon as Reagan entered office it was on like Donkey Kong (and MTV’s debut the following year just solidified it)

  16. Kinda like how Raging Bull and The Elephant Man are really products of the 70’s, even though they came out in 1980 (and they both have protagonists yelling “I’m not an animal!”, and they’re both in black and white. Weird).

    Speaking of movies out of time, does anyone else think that The Girl Next Door is the best John Hughes movie not made by John Hughes?

  17. Knox, I would say that CAN’T HARDLY WAIT holds that title.

  18. Kaos was happy with the movie he’d shot, delivering the film to Warner Bros on time and under budget. However WB locked him out of the edit suite. Many character moments and scenes important to the plot were exised resulting in the film making little sense. The action scenes were also edited totally differently to how he’d planned them. They even fired his music composer. To this day Kaos hasn’t seen the finished film all the way through.

    After Ballistic he went on to shoot several high profile music videos and commercials. He’s now back in his native Thailand where he’s just finished his first film as director since Ballistic. It’s called ‘Angels’ and you can see the trailer and find more info here http://www.beyondhollywood.com/dustin-nguyen-is-a-dad-out-for-revenge-in-wych-kaosayanandas-angels/

  19. Where’s the action comprehensibility meter? Was the plot so incomprehensible that there’s just no point?

  20. Knox Harrington

    April 16th, 2013 at 2:15 pm

    Pegsman, it’s funny, I was trying to make up my mind between those two when I wrote that comment. I decided on The Girl Next Door because it reminded me of Hughes’ more high-concept movies, like Ferris Bueller and Weird Science. But I have to agree with you. Can’t Hardly Wait is the shit.

    Oh, and uh… something something about that Ballistic movie.

  21. Not a bad film, but so fucking bland it becomes bad by default.

  22. Subtlety – I plan to use the ACR only on newer movies. I feel like this one comes from a more naive time when you could safely assume the action would be comprehensible in an action movie.

  23. I Donno about donkey kong, but you hit the nail on the head with Reagan.

    Reagan was the beginning of the media era and in a much more decisive way than anyone since because one of his first acts in office was to defund major portions of the FCC and eliminate a whole bunch if basic regulations that resulted in the consolidation of all media into 12 media mega-corporations (far fewer now). They also resulted in an explosion in profitability and the creation of far more overall media, even as fewer and fewer (white, hetrosexual men) controlled it.

    Some of these changes were good, but others were and are major problems for media ethics, fair competition laws, anti-trust laws and of course, diversity in programming.

  24. Also, ecks vs sever was my favorite gameboy game. I bought and loved both of those games. Really hard levels. And it had this cool feature where, if you played as Ecks, you’d have a bunch of levels where you were chasing sever through mazes. And if you played as sever, you’d have to make it through the same level maze running from ecks. Or you’d have to go through the level in the opposite direction. I’m not explaining t well, but the game was super fun and made good use of the ‘vs’ in the title.

  25. it’s interesting just how much the President sets the tone for any given era of not just the United States, but the whole world

  26. It’s kind of an interesting derail, and I’ll shut up if it’s not appropriate, but I’d put “The 80s” beginning sometime near the end of 1981, when synthpop was starting to take over, and ending upon the release of Nevermind in 1991. I was too young to really experience the beginning, but the end was fun. It’s like grunge sucked all the air out of the room and if you didn’t trade your glam shit for plaid you looked dumb quick.

    I think it’s less politics and more music and fashion.

    I’m not sure when they’ll say the 2000s ended. Culture has fragmented and there’s more niche groups than ever. I’m not sure what would make a good dividing line.

  27. The 80s did not end with the release of Nevermind in 1991. The 80s were over in 1987 when too many spoofs of classic 80s shows and comic books flooded the airwaves. The first show to change everything was ALF. The show had way too many sexual connotations to it and worse yet, the dolls and t-shirts were marketed to children. ALF with his long banana nose was always out to eat that pussy cat. There was nothing 80s about late ’86 to 1990.

  28. There’s a book about the beginning and prime of MTV that posits that “the 80’s” as a culture really started in 1983 when the network was more widespread across America, and also because it was the year THRILLER, PYROMANIA, and Madonna’s first big hits came out. Cinematically speaking, that influence would come around a year or two later, with TV shows like MIAMI VICE and the first “brat pack” movies.

    Musically speaking, I wouldn’t say at all that the 80’s necessarily ended with NEVERMIND. The legend is that Nirvana and grunge killed hair metal, which is partly true. Bands like Motley Crue and Poison (and the many bands who came out in their wake) slipped off the radar. But heavy metal was pretty potent in the early 90’s as a whole, Metallica and Ozzy were selling huge numbers. Even Bon Jovi and Def Leppard still had big albums come out the year after NEVERMIND. They wouldn’t really feel the sting of that impact until the mid-90’s, in America anyway. They were still huge in Europe and in other foreign markets.

  29. I really don’t expect anybody to notice I’m posting this but I wanted to let you all know that I saw Security starring Antonio Banderas and Ben Kingsley. It’s a movie about a war vet who is down on his luck and takes a job as a security guard at a mall. His first night a girl is banging on the door and she’s a witness to a bad dude and Ben Kingsley and his henchmen are after her. It’s basically Assault on Precinct 13 in a mall but it’s pretty fun. Banderas is great as a take no shit guy who is just trying to protect this girl because she reminds him of his daughter he hasn’t seen in a while. I don’t think he’s taking the movie all that lightly because it looks like he’s doing just about all his own stunts. Ben Kingsley is clearly doing it for the paycheck but since he’s just a good actor that he isn’t mailing it in. He is good at being creepy, imo.

    The movie also stars Cung Le who isn’t in it that much but he does have a pretty fun fight with Banderas. Nothing epic or anything but Banderas is really likable in this movie so it’s got some weight to it. It’s mostly a gun fight movie and they’re pretty decent. There is one John Woo gunfight moment that I love and I wish more action movies would do that.

    The only negative is that they have this one henchmen guy that it looks like he’s going to be a really cool henchmen but they do nothing with him.

    Oh and they do set up things in the mall when Banderas gets the tour and it comes into play later on in the movie. I also will say that the other security guys are pretty good and likable and there is some lines of dialogue that I laughed out loud at. One of the guards is in Fast and the Furious (the young kid who gets shot because he’s a dumbass) and he’s pretty good in int and the other guy is one of the leads from Sparticus which I think some here like.

    I don’t know, I liked it a bunch. It was worth the rental. It was good to see a movie that was more gun fights than hand to hand because there aren’t enough of those.

    Oh and I should probably mention that I love siege movies so it was already something I was going to enjoy regardless I bet.

  30. That sounds right up my alley, Sternshein. I’ll check it out.

  31. That actually sounds like the dark and gritty reboot of Paul Blart: Mall Cop that I never knew I wanted to see! Banderas is underrated both as a legit actor and an action star – he’s easily the best thing in Expendables 3 and I bet most people had no idea he was in it.

  32. I agree. He’s such a graceful man that all of his movements have a certain panache to them. I realize all the parkour and shit in EXP3 had to be a stuntman, but he still added something to the more standard point-and-shoot fare he was given. There were probably 300 shots of people firing guns in that movie, enough that they mostly became a blur, but Banderas always put a little extra mustard on all of his action beats to make them stand out. Whether its his stance, a little flick of the wrist, whatever, it’s the kind of thing that can turn generic action into satisfying action.

  33. The way he shoots the two guns shows a lot of confidence in this one.

    Keep in mind it’s a low budget movie with a director who isn’t that great but he has enough energy to make it work.

  34. I saw the cover art. I figured it wasn’t going to be top-notch filmatism or major production values. But that’s okay. You don’t need all that as long as you have a sturdy enough story and a star with real charisma who understands how to make action work.

  35. Hey, we should continue the discussion of when one decade ends and another begins.

    M. Casey was not sure when the 2000s ended, well I have to say they ended when the phrase “Black Lives Matter” was coined in 2013, THAT right there was the end of that cultural moment the beginning of whatever it is we’re living in now.

  36. Agreed on Banderas. I very much enjoyed ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO, FEMME FATALE, and ASSASSINS, among others. I don’t think I made it through EXPENDABLES 3, but maybe it deserves another watch. I also enjoyed him in the very weird KNIGHT OF CUPS. He’s always consistent, fully committed, and frequently steals the show.

  37. His next one looks weird where he is a rock star.

  38. Stern: To show that I do take your recommendations seriously, even post-BABY DRIVER, I rented and watched SECURITY this morning. I thought it was a pretty solid got-the-job done movie. It never really flirts with greatness but Banderas is clearly taking it seriously and giving this one his all and it makes a huge impact on what would have otherwise been a forgettable diversion. I always enjoyed Banderas and all this talk about him in EXPENDABLES 3 (you guys are right, he seems to be the only one trying in that one and is thus the most memorable thing about that movie) and seeing him try his damndest with this one kinda makes me a fan and want to look forward to what he does in the future.

    Thanks for for the recommendation Stern.

  39. Hey Sternshein, I picked up SECURITY as my birthday movie today. No pressure or anything. It’s just how I’m choosing to kick off the next decade of my life. It won’t be a bad omen or anything if it sucks, leading to another ten years of disappointment and decay. And that certainly won’t be all your fault.

  40. if you like the more competently made DTV action films, and I know you do, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. Can’t wait to see how you liked it. Fun fact, that was the last movie I watched before I turned 40.

  41. Good news, everyone! Sternshein didn’t ruin my forties! SECURITY is indeed very enjoyable and exactly what I wanted out of it: a low-key action movie that takes itself seriously but doesn’t forget to be fun. I recommend it to all.

  42. Good to hear. I liked it as well, sometimes Stern pulls through! Hope you had a good birthday and the next forty don’t suck for you.

  43. I feel like somebody around here should watch and tell people about non Scott Adkins action movies around here. I’m glad you guys liked it. I also thought gridlocked with Dominick Purcell was a good one too. Not as good as Security but it has a similar vibe.

  44. Happy birthday, Majestyk! I wish you many happy decades of infiltrating the avclub’s shitty Kinja comment section for every STAR WARS article to complain loudly about how you’re not going to see any of them.

  45. Yeah, shit, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MR MAJESTYK! I remembered it on Friday, but started drinking early on Saturday and forgot all about it.

  46. You tend to forget when you start to drink early.

  47. Happy 40th Majestyk! Being in your thirties is fucking overrated anyway.

  48. A tad late, but yeah, hope you had a great birthday, Mr M.

  49. Of the DTV movies (or any movies) I’ve missed lately, are there any I should make top priority to review this month? I’d like to catch up on some before I dive into all horror October.

  50. Have you reviewEd that WWE film starring Scott Adkins and Wade Barrett? ELIMINATORS?

  51. Obviously you should watch Security. Might be interesting to watch Gun Shy as well since they are two completely different Banderas movies.

  52. ELIMINATORS and SECURITY, for sure.

    I’ve heard nothing but terrible things about GUN SHY, but hey.

    Also, THE YAKUZA (1974).

    (Sorry, couldn’t resist).

  53. The Undefeated Gaul

    September 11th, 2017 at 6:42 am

    Agreed on ELIMINATORS, very enjoyable that one.

  54. The Undefeated Gaul

    September 11th, 2017 at 6:48 am

    Maybe HEADSHOT? Wouldn’t say that one’s top priority but it’s worth a watch.

  55. The Undefeated Gaul

    September 11th, 2017 at 6:53 am

    And just in case it’s not on your October list already, I also recommend THE BELKO EXPERIMENT

  56. How about a LADY BLOODFIGHT review? I know you´ve seen it Vern and according to Twitter reports you liked it.

  57. Did I miss Majestyk’s birthday again?
    Well, then I don’t have a reason to congratulate him.

    Obviously just kidding. Congrats, man!

  58. Hey, thanks, everybody. I had a good birthday. So far being 40 ain’t so bad. I made such a pig’s ear out of my thirties that I’m relieved just to have them over with.

    Crustacean: I tell myself that I’m not gonna do that anymore, but then some shit happens like the suits firing yet another director (even a shitty one like Treverrow) and it’s like blood in the water for a hardline auteurist like me. At this point I legitimately don’t care about the movies anymore but the issues of authorship they bring up still fascinate me.

    Vern: I just watched Bruce’s new private eye caper comedy ONCE UPON A TIME IN VENICE and liked it, despite some hackneyed touches. Shane Black shits better comic noir scripts than this but it’s nice to see Bruce enjoying himself.

  59. I would encourage everyone to give a shoutout to when it´s their birthday. It would be kind of cool. As it is now, it seem we all just celebrate Majestyks bithday because he is the only one who mentions it.

    But yes,happy Birthday Mr Majestyk. You sonofabitch. Try not to celebrate it with the wrong kind of hooker with a shady medical past.

  60. Or we could make Majestyk Day (9/9–so easy to remember even you Europeans with your weird backward dates can’t mess it up) an official Outlaw Vern holiday and all celebrate it together.

  61. You dodged a bullet there. Two days before 9/11.

  62. Even terrorists know better than to disrespect Majestyk Day.

  63. I honestly don´t know how to respond to that.

  64. I bought and watched both ELIMINATORS and LADY BLOODFIGHT but need to rewatch them to write about them. I’ll have to look for SECURITY.

  65. Marcel Copernicus Leopold Theroux III Day has a better ring to it.

  66. For once I’m ahead of all of y’all and I already had that shit on my calendar from last year when he mentioned his birthday in the HELL OR HIGH WATER thread! I guess I’ll update the name when we officially agree on it’s name.

    Don’t worry Broddie, I have your birthday logged as well. You too will not escape my shallow/generic yearly birth/natal anniversary praise!

  67. Shoot – MCLT III is canon.

  68. I agree. Marcel Copernicus Leopold Therousx III Day should be the long descriptive term of Majestyk Day

  69. FYI, Vern told me he liked Bushwick but due to real life disasters in Texas it’s hard for him to write about it right now. Vern is so awesome.

  70. My birthday is on the 17th of this month.

  71. I just turned 40 on 8/27

  72. Griff: Wouldn’t y’know it, I can no longer operate my calendar…

    Stern: Okay, just added ya man!

  73. I had wished Majestyk a happy birthday well in advance but in the spirit of the turn the thread took happy belated birthday as well.

    I just turned 34 over a month. It has so far been the most inspired I have been in a very long time so I know that feeling when you enter a new year of life gracefully. I got that fire I once had burning again. That stuff in the basement like Rocky says is bubbling back up.

    ELIMINATORS was fun. Top tier entry in the WWE Studios filmography. Barret’s sports entertainment shit vs. Adkins martial arts at the end was worth it. Fills you with joy despite some shaky cam. Still have to watch SECURITY though.

  74. Sternshein. You turned forty on the 8th of Blurbtober?

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