Billed as the comeback vehicle for former action superstar Steven Seagal, "Exit Wounds" (IMDb listing) fails to capture the raw aggression that marked Seagal films from the early 1990s. Long gone is the powerful swiftness, the simple charisma, and the lean figure. "Exit Wounds" features a Seagal looking bored out of his mind, and editing where there once was unforgettable ability.
Seagal stars as Orin Boyd, a decorated police officer, who after saving the life of the vice president, is busted down to patrolman of the cold streets of the big city (apparently saving the life of the second of command just isn't what is used to be). Partnered with a family man (Isaiah Washington), Boyd discovers a secret connection between a criminal (DMX) and some of his fellow cops. Out to put the squeeze on some dirty cops, Boyd learns quickly that his friends cannot be trusted, and that the only ones who may not be out to kill him are the very people he has tried to kill himself.
"Exit Wounds" was directed by former ace cinematographer, now feature helmer, Andrzej Bartkowiak. His previous feature was the head-first-into-a-brick-wall awful "Romeo Must Die" from a year ago. Bartkowiak doesn't have one original idea in his brain, often lazily relying on the work of other better action directors who have tread many times on the ground "Exit Wounds" occupies.
A lot has occurred in the years since Seagal first burst on the scene. The action genre has been buried alive from the video and pay cable markets. You really have to think up new and exciting ways to engage the audience. Recent movies like "The Matrix" or even the goofy "Charlie's Angels" went out of their way to stage satisfying action pieces to up the ante for the crowds. "Exit Wounds" is more satisfied borrowing (or stealing) from these latest films to craft a motion picture as inert as it is routine. Bartkowiak has no idea how to put together a logical and kinetic set piece. Trying with every opportunity to show off his pilfered style, Bartkowiak deflates his film of all dramatic tension and engineers "Exit Wounds" to become more idiotic and absurd as the running time burns on.
No doubt hoping to get his career back on stable ground after his last film, 1998's "The Patriot," went straight to cable, Steven Seagal at least took the time to cut off his trademark ponytail and lose some weight for his role in "Exit Wounds." Never a good actor, Seagal only had his fantastic martial arts chops to get him through such minor classics as 1990's "Hard to Kill" and 1991's "OUt For Justice." In those films, Seagal was given the room to breathe and the opportunity to showcase his moves. Now, the editing does all the work for him. I would be flabbergasted to learn if Seagal bothers to move at all when he fights cinematically anymore. He just shows up for his closeups nowadays, and lets the younger stuntmen do all the hard work. "Exit Wounds" does nothing to restore the reputation Seagal once had. This new film acts more like a final nail in the coffin of the strangest career to ever come out of Hollywood.
By teaming up Seagal with rap superstar DMX, it's like the blind leading the blind. A true rap archetype, DMX is not an actor. Look deeply into his eyes during any given scene of "Exit Wounds" and you can tell he would agree with me. DMX cuts quite an imposing figure, and with roles that require little to no dialog, he would be fantastic. However, "Exit Wounds" casts the original "dawg" as a millionaire Internet tycoon. A computer genius who plans to end police corruption. Yeah, right. He can barely spit out his dialog, and the only time he seems fully comfortable is when his songs are playing in the background.
As if to add insult to injury, director Bartkowiak is so clueless he enlists Tom Arnold to be the comedic relief. Good lord! Was Rip Taylor too busy? "Exit Wounds" could've used some confetti.
A visual orgy of violence and monosyllabic acting, "Exit Wounds" is certainly not what it could've been: a rip-roaring symphony of destruction. Maybe next time instead of watching his weight, Steven Seagal will keep his eye on who makes his movies.
Filmfodder Grade: D-