A scene from 'Exit Wounds'
Courtesy Photo
**1/2 stars 117 minutes | Rated: R
Opened: Friday, March 16, 2001
Directed by Andrzej Bartkowiak

Starring Steven Seagal, DMX, Jill Hennessy, Isaiah Washington, Tom Arnold, Michael Jai White, Anthony Anderson, Bill Duke


A lot of what made this movie a cut above Segal's standard fare is cinematic -- and therefore likely to lose a lot to the small screen.

   VIDEO RELEASE: 08.28.2001


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Idiotic plot barely a backdrop for awesome action in 'Exit Wounds'

By Rob Blackwelder

For the first time since "Under Siege" Steven Seagal has managed to make a testosterone-fueled flick that isn't mind-numbingly insipid -- so I guess it would have been too much to hope that "Exit Wounds" might also make even the most remote amount of sense.

This is a movie in which Seagal stars as a tough cop who plays by his own rules (ooo, there's a shock!) and gets in trouble with the brass. This I buy -- it's stupid and unoriginal, but I can go with it if the action is entertaining enough.

This is also a movie in which comely, 31-year-old Jill Hennessey ("Law & Order") plays the commander of the toughest precinct house in Detroit and rapper DMX plays a dot-com millionaire on a private undercover mission to expose police corruption by selling heroin on the web.

Clearly character credibility is not a high priority for director Andrzej Bartkowiak ("Romeo Must Die"). Neither is continuity, ingenuity or the vaguest hint of realism. Even the helicopter Seagal blows up with a handgun (!) in the opening scene (get this: he's rescuing the Vice President from kidnappers) is quite obviously a scale model dangling on fishing line.

But Bartkowiak's talent for super-tight editing, slick production values (everything but the chopper looks awesome), creative violence and rousing, ante-upping, adrenaline-pumping action sequences make it easy to check your brain at the door, fasten your seatbelt and go along for the pedal-to-the-metal, cars-a-crashin', fists-a-flyin', guns-a-blazin' ride.

There's no point in going over the plot here -- suffice to say it's hole-riddled nonsense about crooked cops and stolen drugs. So lets talk about the action, which is enough of a raucous, rowdy knockout to carry the movie through all its rampant idiocy.

Everywhere Seagal parks his big, black truck there seems to be a crime in progress -- even when there's no reason whatsoever for him to be there. Shootouts ensue, of course, and they're almost John Woo caliber in the way they're choreographed and photographed in a hardcore sonata of sound and fury. Car chases frequently follow, with luxury rides (Lamborginis, Hummers) blazing through city streets at 100 mph in scenes that are almost "Ronin" caliber. Many of them end in crashes so brutally spectacular they'll give you goosebumps.

As for the acting, if Seagal's mother ever told him "your face is going to freeze like that," she was right. DMX, however, is surprisingly lucid and brings some personality to his two-dimensional part. Isaiah Washington, saddled with the role of Seagal's new partner, manages to keep his dignity as the two of them go around randomly assigning themselves whatever investigations strike Seagal's fancy. Tom Arnold provides a little comic relief as an obnoxious cracker of a TV morning show host, as does Anthony Anderson ("See Spot Run," "Big Momma's House") as an obnoxious ghetto clown -- something for everyone, I guess.

It was easy to sit through "Exit Wounds" picking apart its quantum leaps of illogic and its pathetic clichés. Nobody involved in making this movie could have cared less about making sense, and Warner Bros. assumes -- probably with good cause -- that their target audience is too thick to even notice.

But while it would have been refreshing to see such violent, almighty action folded into a script that, for a change, wasn't predicated on wholesale feeble-mindedness, there's just no denying "Exit Wounds" kicks some serious butt.

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