Directed by: Andrzej Bartkowiak
Starring: Steven Seagal, DMX, Tom Arnold, Bill Duke, Jill Hennessy
It's big. It's loud. It's dumb. People are shot, bludgeoned, blown-up, hurled through space, impaled and generally subjected to indignities that are inimical to good fellowship. Good guys and bad guys alike boast weapons that only need reloading after about 500 shots. Characters are harder to kill than a New York City cockroach -- until it suits the convenience of the script, of course. (Steven Seagal's quasi-romantic interest survives a hail of bullets and manages an astonishing leap in her car from the second floor of a parking garage, but hands in her dinner pail the moment she smacks her head on the windshield in a subsequent crash simply because it benefits the plot -- and allows Seagal to take off on a motorcycle and extend the sequence.) It's your average testosterone-soaked action flick, cobbled together from just about every other testosterone-soaked action flick you've ever seen. Yet Exit Wounds is so bizarrely and aggressively over-the-top that it finally becomes liberatingly stupid and entertaining. The plot is pure formula, but interestingly decked out in so many convolutions -- almost no one is what they seem -- that the end result is almost Shakespearean in its weird complexity. Not that the film is really concerned with plot in any useful sense, plot being little more than a necessary evil on which to hang a raft of high-powered action sequences. Plot is here just functional premise. Exit Wounds sets this up quickly when maverick cop Orin Boyd (Seagal) thwarts an assassination attempt on a generic vice president. The film isn't many minutes old before cars are blowing up, motorcycles are crashing and Seagal is blasting a helicopter out of the sky with a handgun (this boy is butch). For his pains -- and the fact that he chucks the vice president into the water, damaging his dignity, but saving his life -- Boyd is punished by being busted and sent to a hell-hole precinct to mend his lone-wolf ways. Not surprisingly, he unearths nothing but corruption in his new stomping grounds and sets out to right matters in the most direct and violent ways possible. Sure, it's Action Movie 101 stuff, but it moves with such speed and absurdity that it's actually engaging, even when its self-consciousness shows through (which is a lot of the time) and you find yourself laughing at the movie rather than with it. Director Andrzej Bartkowiak (better known for his cinematography than his direction) keeps it all moving like a conjurer, proving that the explosion is quicker than the eye and allowing the viewer little time to become bored with the onscreen antics, and even less time to question their believability. The screenplay tries hard to be thoughtful about the material, but this mostly results in lame efforts to tone down the fascist aspects of Seagal's character by giving him lines like, "You remind me of those bureaucrats who sent kids to Vietnam in the '60s," when he is demoted to his new job. (It's like a neon sign flashing on to tell us, "See? He has a conscience!") Steven Seagal is still a martial-arts knock-off of Clint Eastwood with a pony tail who can't act. Actually, he lost the pony tail somewhere along the way, but he still can't act and he still delivers lines like an untalented impressionist doing Eastwood in a stand-up routine. But then again, he doesn't need to act, since his stock in trade is swaggering, scowling and beating the crap out of bad guys. These things he can do without half trying. Rapper DMX also can't act, but he boasts a screen presence and is very good at looking earnest, which is mostly what he does here. Comedy -- which is gilding the lily in this case -- is handed over Tom Arnold (Ablaze) as an excitable talk show host with a rage problem and Anthony Anderson (See Spot Run) as DMX's big-talking, cowardly sidekick. Actually, some of their material is pretty funny -- and sticking around through the ending credits for their wild talk-show chat is worth it. There's nothing terribly remarkable about Exit Wounds, but it's very efficient at what it does. It's noisy, it's violent (in that disturbingly nondisturbing way that glamorizes such) and it's sufficiently kinetic to work on its own terms. It's a fast-food cheeseburger of a movie, but it won't bore you.