What's the easiest way to resuscitate the career of an over-the-hill action star? Apparently, the formula doesn't entail quality acting, exciting special effects and a plot to match. Instead, simply pair your aging actor with a white-hot, multiplatinum rapper who's building his movie career and just let it roll.
In "Exit Wounds," Steven Seagal returns to the screen as Orin Boyd, a good cop in a bad situation (please insert ominous baritone voice-over). Despite several years away from the limelight, Seagal still has his Dick-Tracy-meets-Chuck-Norris schick going and wastes no time in doing what he does best -- beating down random bad guys in poorly choreographed fight scenes.
But this time around, Seagal does his spin kicks to the pulse of a hip hop beat and shares top billing with DMX (Latrell Walker). The pairing works better than it might have. DMX, fresh off a prominent role in "Romeo Must Die," turns in another solid performance as a Detroit balla with police protection and a mysterious past.
He stalks the screen with an energy as raw as his trademark growl and delivers staccato lines that nicely contrast Seagal's languid, Alec Baldwin-like whisper.
Andrzej Bartkowiak, who directed DMX in "Romeo," made a brilliant move in adding him to the Seagal mix. But he shouldn't have looked to the rap world for plot inspiration. The movie's story line is so overused that it would make Puff Daddy blush.
Almost no attempts are made at character development and those that are ring hollow. Seagal's reply to his new partner's (Isaiah Washington) inquiry about his family life typifies the film's idea of depth.
"Same old cliche, I guess," he says without any fluctuation in pulse. "She got tired of all those sleepless nights."
The same old cliches accurately describe the elements that make "Exit Wounds" ineffective.
The movie is pitched as an action-drama about police corruption but does little to live up to that billing.
From the beginning, it's painfully obvious who the villains are and who has to die.
Even with the telegraphed plot, however, "Exit Wounds" fails to create any sort of atmosphere. The tension between good and evil is nonexistent. I'm thinking that there must have been a group discount at the Chris Webber School of Facial Expressions because every male character, Seagal and DMX included, is trying to scowl his way into being a bad ass.
Over the past five years, the action-hero genre has all but died. "Exit Wounds" may resurrect Seagal's career, but it's a perfect example of why beat-'em-up flicks that mistake complication for sophistication tend to flop. Skip the movie, buy the soundtrack.
The Arts & Entertainment Editor can be reached at email@example.com.
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