Action Heroes – Seagal: Exit Wounds

It seemed, for a brief moment at least, that Seagal was to have a career resurgence with this Joel Silver produced thriller in 2001. It broke the mould for what his films could include by adding (for the first time) extensive wire-work, acting alongside a rapper, and a genuine sense of humour, the latter of which has yet to appear in anymore of his subsequent releases. It’s also the only film Seagal has made which is based on other source material, in this case John Westermann’s book of the same name.

Seagal plays Detective Orin Boyd (continuing Seagal’s penchant for silly character names) who, after a explosive opening sequence, is transferred to Precinct 51, the baddest and most crooked of Detroit’s areas. Once there Boyd starts to become suspicious of several officers. And after fifty kilos of heroin goes missing from the vaults, he decides it’s time to do a little digging.

Being one of Seagal’s penultimate cinema releases (that final bow goes to the ludicrously named Half Past Dead) this was the supposed beginnings of a new start for Seagal. Unfortunately even though it fared well at the box office and with the critics, it was to be too little too late. Ten years later Seagal is fatter and more tired looking then he’s ever been, but in Exit Wounds at least he recaptures part of that slimmer figure and cocky charm that made him popular in the first place. A younger Eva Mendes shows up and DMX is in it as well.

One of the main problems with this film is that it can’t seem to get the tone right. It’s unable to decide whether it’s a tongue in cheek action romp or a gritty crime thriller, all of which makes it feel a tad uneven at times. The fights (when they do happen) are a little too fantastical for their own good, relying heavily on the aforementioned wire-work. It goes to show just how graceful Seagal’s chop socky is when stuck on the ground, because on wires it’s about as stiff as his acting.

So while the fights are less brutal than those found in Out For Justice or Under Siege, they’re still more entertaining than most of the pap he churned out after this feature. It also contains one of the best car chases within a Seagal feature as it injects the film with an added bit of oomph that is much needed. It also does something quite shocking for an action film by killing off the love interest, shown in the most graphically brutal way. It even made me wince (which takes a lot).

Did I mention DMX is in it?

By the time of the final showdown between Seagal and Michael Jai White (Black Dynamite himself) the film has become utterly stupid and so far removed from reality as to defy logic. One such moment of stupidity occurs during the climatic fight between these two martial arts whizzes as they start using industrial sized shears as make-shift swords. Which in turn is made all the more unintentionally hilarious as the suspect wire-work is yet again present. For instance just look at the fake and rather obvious somersault that takes place, in slow-motion no less.

At the end of the day this is still one of the better recent Seagal films and one which is at least worth one watch to see how he’s fallen from grace. What took place over the next few years after Exit Wounds release would show Seagal at the very bottom of his game. Which is saying a lot because DMX was in this.

Dominic O’Brien

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