Almost a year to the day of the release of "Romeo Must Die" comes yet another hip-hop-karate-chop-beat'em-up from producer Joel Silver and director Andrzej Bartkowiak, "Exit Wounds". However, instead of having to put up with the limited thesping abilities of martial arts maven Jet Li, audiences are treated to the limited thesping abilities of martial arts has-been Steven Seagal, whose career essentially sputtered to a halt in the late Nineties with lackluster offerings such as "Fire Down Below". Unfortunately, despite this comeback vehicle's opening weekend bonanza at the top of the box office, "Exit Wounds" is essentially cut from the same cloth as Seagal's early low-budget and low-brainpower actioners.
Seagal, looking a little pudgier since his previous outings, stars as Detroit police officer Orin Boyd, the archetypal 'lone wolf' cop who relishes in breaking the rules to get the job done. The film's overwrought opening sequence has Orin saving the Vice-President from a militia ambush, though his use of excessive force gets him in hot water with his boss Daniels (Bruce McGill of "The Legend of Bagger Vance"), who kicks him down to the infamous 15th Precinct and enrolls him in 'anger management' classes.
Of course, Orin starts butting heads with his new (not to mention comely) precinct commander (Jill Hennessy of "Autumn in New York"), especially when he stumbles onto what could be a nest of crooked cops who may have illicit dealings with the ultra-rich Latrell Walker (DMX, who also appeared in "Romeo Must Die"). Pretty soon, Orin's unwelcome snooping attracts the wrong type of attention and the fists and bullets start flying. Paradoxically, it seems that the only person he can trust is Latrell, whose involvement is much more complicated than it initially appears.
In addition to the cliché-ridden script (including not one, but two obligatory visits to a strip club), the film's faults are rather glaring. Though the action sequences are executed in the slick post-"Matrix" style with superhuman and physics-defying acrobatics captured in slo-mo, they are also heavily-edited. Whereas the Jet Li action sequences in "Romeo Must Die" were generally shot at a wide-angle and followed through on an entire martial arts movement, the fight sequences involving Seagal in "Exit Wounds" are often shot at a close angle and subject to split-second editing and assorted camera trickery, raising questions about whether Seagal still 'has it'.
"Exit Wounds" also does a miserable job in disguising the fact that the film was shot in Toronto, with a guaranteed sighting of some Toronto landmark or distinguishing feature occurring at least every few minutes. In addition to a lingering shot of Toronto's Old City Hall, the Yonge/Dundas intersection, and local hotspot Tonic Nightclub, one scene has a shot of a billboard promoting the Skydome.
For "Exit Wounds", Silver and Bartkowiak have recruited a number of familiar faces from "Romeo Must Die". In addition to DMX, Anthony Anderson (also seen in "Me, Myself, and Irene") shows up again as yet another doofus-gangbanger-sidekick-comic-relief character, while Isaiah Washington is Orin's new partner. Among the new faces are Tom Arnold ("True Lies") as a sleazy investigative reporter that helps with Orin's investigation and Michael Jai White ("Universal Soldier: The Return") as a fellow cop whose loyalties are undetermined.
Alas, the ending of the film basically says it all. After Steven Seagal and the 'good guys' bring a whole lot of whup-ass on the bad guys, instead of a triumphant finish or closing with a big bang, the audience is treated to the characters of Tom Arnold and Anthony Anderson swapping gross and disturbingly unfunny observations about the intimacies of their own bodily functions. Yes, the marketing for "Exit Wounds" certainly doesn't lie when the poster states, "This is gonna hurt"-in fact, it's excruciatingly painful.