2001, R, 117 min. Directed by Andrzej Bartkowiak. Starring Steven Seagal, DMX, Isaiah Washington, Michael Jai White, Anthony Anderson, Bill Duke, Jill Hennessy, Tom Arnold.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., March 23, 2001
Exit Wounds is a textbook example of how to revive a lagging career. Steven Seagal, who's now been absent from the screen as a leading man in his own action-star vehicles for several years following his diminishing box-office success during the mid- to late Nineties, proved that he can still deliver the goods during the opening weekend of Exit Wounds. Handily kicking his way into the No. 1 spot, Seagal's newest adventure exploits the formulas that have worked best for him in the past, drops the ill-addressed ecological concerns that made movies like Fire Down Below and On Deadly Ground so laughable, and busts up the star's exclusive monopoly on screen time. Exit Wounds wisely pairs him up with hot rap star DMX, who interestingly plays a character whose true identity is kept hidden until at least 70 minutes into the movie. Though still the undeniable star and owner of this franchise, Seagal does not dominate every scene and every shot, uncharacteristically allowing his numerous co-stars space to do their various things. In the case of Tom Arnold, who plays a scuffle-mongering talk-show host, Seagal's generosity results in some very funny moments, and undoubtedly the most original sequence in the movie. Over the closing credits, Arnold and Anthony Anderson engage in several minutes of comic repartée that is funnier and more spontaneous than anything that has come before. Seagal has also paired up here with powerhouse producer Joel Silver who, with films such as The Matrix, the Die Hard and Lethal Weapon franchises, 48HRS., and Romeo Must Die to his credit, is a brand-name action maestro himself. Also on board is Romeo Must Die director Andrzej Bartkowiak, who has a keen eye for action dynamics and keeps Exit Wounds moving like a house on fire. Seagal sticks with the punchy two- or three-word titles that sound great but mean little (Above the Law, Hard to Kill, Under Siege). They have become as much a part of his trademark as his punchy character names (here he plays Oren Boyd) and his signature ponytail (which he's shorn for Exit Wounds). The story is a Dirty Harry knockoff in which Detroit plainclothes cop Boyd saves the vice-president of the United States from a terrorist attack, although his questionable strategies (shoving the veep off a bridge into the water below) gets him bumped down to playing traffic cop in a lousy precinct. Soon enough, Boyd is sniffing out some stolen heroin, corrupt cops, and the precinct's female watch commander (Law & Order's Jill Hennessy). In Seagal's movies, the interesting stuff never derives from what happens, but rather from how it happens. Exit Wounds is certainly one of his best efforts, although the distinction is a dubious one at best.