Dir: Andrzej Bartkowiak. US. 2001. 100 mins.
Looking to make a comeback after a run of commercial disappointments, Steven Seagal teams up on Exit Wounds with action king producer Joel Silver and hot rapper DMX. It's a canny move which should bring in both older white males and younger black men and has seen Seagal's best ever box-office opening, taking in $19 million as it occupied the top spot during its first weekend. But it may not be enough to put him back on the action hero A-list, because underneath its hip hop trimmings and Silver-sized stunts, Exit Wounds is an action thriller that's more than averagely mechanical and hackneyed.
As maverick Detroit detective Orin Boyd, Seagal seems at first to be adopting a slightly older, wiser screen persona than he has in the past. After heroically but destructively saving the US Vice-President from terrorists, Boyd is (somewhat inexplicably) re-assigned to a rough urban precinct where he has to endure the indignities of traffic duty, bullying colleagues, a female boss and anger-management classes. Before long, however, the character development falls by the wayside and Seagal the mayhem-machine returns, as Boyd goes after mysterious drug dealer Latrell Walker (DMX) and in the process uncovers a ring of dirty cops.
Several of the film's other on- and off-screen talents are reunited from Silver's Romeo Must Die, a hip hop-flavoured martial arts picture that became a mid-level hit - $56m in the US - this time last year. DMX has some nice moody poses to offer, but his acting still needs work and although he gets second billing to Seagal he's used fairly sparingly here. (The rapper's recent brush with the law, which resulted in a 15-day jail sentence for driving without a licence, could help the film publicity-wise.) Isaiah Washington is a solid presence as Boyd's naive new partner and Anthony Anderson provides some comic relief as Latrell's right-hand man TK. Tom Arnold - playing a TV host with crime-fighting aspirations - brings some white-trash comedy, but his performance is much less effective than Anderson's.
Romeo director Andrzej Bartkowiak and cinematographer Glen MacPherson give the film a stylish look and make the most of the martial arts and car-crash sequences. The set-piece stunt scenes have the kind of body and vehicle-counts that action fans have come to expect from Silver, but they don't offer much in the way of innovation.
Prod cos: Warner Bros, Village Roadshow Pictures, NPV Entertainment. Dist: Warner/Village Roadshow (Australia/New Zealand, Singapore, Greece). Prods: Joel Silver, Dan Cracchiolo. Exec prod: Bruce Berman. Scr: Ed Horowitz, Richard D'Ovidio, based on the novel by John Westerman. Director of photography: Glen MacPherson. Prod des: Paul Denham Austerberry. Ed Derek G Brechin. Music: Jeff Rona, Damon 'Grease' Blackman. Main cast: Steven Seagal, DMX, Isaiah Washington, Anthony Anderson, Michael Jai White, Bill Duke, Jill Hennessy.