Reviewed October 21st, 2001 by David Nusair
Steven Seagal is the sort of actor with just as many detractors as fans (he may even have more of the former than the latter), but his early three-words-in-the-title flicks (Above the Law, Hard to Kill, Out for Justice, etc) are all perfect examples of the sort of mindless action movies churned out week after week during the ‘80s. Even some of his later stuff like Fire Down Below and Under Siege 2 (but not The Patriot. Dear god, not The Patriot!) are suitably violent and quite entertaining.
Now, with Exit Wounds, he seeks to reinvent himself. Seagal stars as a disgruntled cop (what a shocker) whose excessive force has sent him from his relatively cushy precinct to a downtown hellhole. This is after he's attempted to curb his hostility by attending an anger management class and proceeds to rip apart a desk he winds up stuck in. Once at the new precinct, Seagal quickly discovers that somethin' ain't right with the other cops. See, it turns out a lot of them are dirty and it's up to Seagal to kick some bad-cop ass. Also along for the ride is DMX, as an unlikely ally in Seagal's fight.
Exit Wounds doesn't offer up any great shakes in terms of plot or character development, but really, are you surprised? All you really want to know is whether or not Seagal busts heads on a fairly regular basis. And he does. Sure, it's not quite as excessive as some of his late '80s, early '90s pummelfests, but it's pretty good. I particularly enjoyed one prolonged sequence that has Seagal up against a gigantic, almost sumo-like opponent. Guess who wins?
The movie has been directed by Andrzej Bartkowiak, and it's got a fair amount of style and flair going for it. His relentless use of slo-mo, though, does wear awfully thin real quick. Ever since The Matrix made it cool to show fight scenes slowed down, most action films have attempted to emulate that films success by employing this technique. And most of the time, it's completely unnecessary (as it is here). When filming a Seagal fight scene, all the director really needs to do is place a camera somewhere and roll. Extreme close-ups, fast editing and super slo-mo shots aren't need and in fact are distracting.
And as for DMX, he’s (how to put this nicely?) not good. He's got exactly one look and it's a scowl. By the time the end rolls around, he attempts something that looks like a grin, but it's short-lived and he looks very uncomfortable doing it. And for those of you Seagal-bashers reading, check out Exit Wounds. It takes a really terrible actor like DMX to make you appreciate the subtlety and depth Seagal infuses into his character by comparison.
While Exit Wounds isn't a true return to Seagal's roots (there are too many explosions and not enough random acts of senseless violence), it is a refreshingly action-packed film that's distractingly enjoyable.
Audio: Presented in DD 5.1, Exit Wounds’ soundtrack is another stellar effort from Warner. The opening gun battle between Seagal and a bunch of hoods is amazing. Bullets whiz by you and (yes, it’s a cliché) you feel as though you’re there. Quieter dialogue-driven scenes (such as the meeting between Seagal and Jill Hennessy at a restaurant) are just as effective, with the ambient sounds coming from all around the room – though never drowning out the two actors. This is a great track.
Video: Equally impressive is the 2.35:1 anamorphically enhanced transfer. There is not a speck or a piece of grain or any sort of film or DVD related artifact present. Close-ups provide astonishingly clear views of the actors faces – so clear, in fact, that it would be entirely possible to count the facial hairs sported by DMX. This top-notch transfer is certainly one of the best in recent memory, which isn’t terribly surprising given Warners reputation for churning out stellar DVDs.
Extras: First up is an 18-minute featurette on the making of the movie. The majority of this doc is devoted to info on the stunts and martial arts choreography (which isn’t that surprising, really), but to be fair, this stuff is interesting. Next is an 8-minute featurette that essentially follows actor Anthony Anderson around for a day, starting with first thing in the morning (noon in actor terms) till the last take (which is around 2:30 AM the next night). Anderson, a former comic, is pretty funny and this is a breezily enjoyable piece of fluff. Next up is DMX’s video for “No Sunshine” which is presented widescreen, though not anamorphically enhanced. And strangely enough, all the swear words have been taken out. Bizarre. Finally, there are some cast/crew filmographies and the trailer (which is anamorphic).
Conclusion: Exit Wounds doesn’t provide any great shakes in any department, but for those of us missing the unnecessarily violent sub-genre of the action movie, this is a step in the right direction.
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