Exit Wounds Review
Normally, I attempt to start a review with a short paragraph trying to look at the background, genre, filmmakers etc; this is either 'insightful introductory material' (me) or 'pretentious padding' (you). However, my lack of experience of Steven Seagal films means that I'll have to eschew in-depth analysis of the generic requirements of people being shot, beaten up, blown up, stabbed or crushed, and get on with reviewing the latest Joel Silver opus.
The plot is surprisingly complex for a Seagal film, despite being about as sophisticated as the back of a cornflake packet, and about as intellectually challenging. Orin Boyd (Seagal), the stupidly named, but thankfully un-ponytailed hero, foils an attempt on the Vice-President's life. However, after he throws the V-P into the river, he is demoted to Detroit's toughest precinct, run by a beautiful yet 'tough' captain (Jill Hennessy), which is seemingly staffed by a bunch of evil musclemen who enjoy nothing more than engaging in vaguely homo-erotic rituals with cattle prods. Meanwhile, Latrell Walker (DMX, the only rapper with a name like a popular make of bicycle) is acting in a moodily suspicious manner, and engaging in some sort of skullduggery with corrupt cops. Will there be violence? Will Seagal kill more people than cancer? Will Tom Arnold's extended cameo feel utterly out of place? Do bears, popes, woods and Catholicism all feel interconnected?
As a dumb action film, this is a guilty pleasure, albeit with a great deal of guilt. As in Romeo must Die, Bartkowiak is something of a whizz at the sort of kinetic action scenes that Renny Harlin and Richard Donner used to stage in their 80s heyday; thus, while the wire-fighting of Silver's The Matrix is heavily overused, the action scenes are pretty exciting, with some good stunts and the odd amusing shot. Therefore, for a post-pub rental, it's a fairly easy recommendation, and so the following bit of 'criticism' can be ignored more or less entirely.
Much was made of Seagal relaunching his career with this film, with Silver announcing that he'd be 'relevant to a whole new lot of people' as a result of it. However, this is untrue. There are some funny moments early on, such as a scene at an anger management group which feels like Fight Club-lite, but when the machinations of the plot itself are revealed, Seagal reverts back to type, as does the film. There's something slightly depressing about seeing the misogynistic and vaguely racist attitudes of a film like this, where women are all scantily clad or domesticated, with even the precinct commander an improbably glamorous supermodel type. Meanwhile, as so often, the black characters all call one another 'motherfucker' or 'nigger', and even DMX's surprisingly strong performance can't lift this aspect of the film out of the depressingly predictable rut that it drives itself into.
The bottom line is that this isn't at all bad for an action film, and it's actually pretty food for a Seagal film, although it falls short of the deliriously stupid heights (or depths) of Under Siege 2. However, it's not exactly Citizen Kane, or even something like Swordfish, which at least had a fairly intelligent and witty script and well-developed female characters. I quite enjoyed the film while I was watching it, but it certainly isn't the sort of thing I'd want to watch again; the rating reflects this.
Warner have done a virtually flawless job here, with a very nice anamorphic 2.35:1 transfer. All my usual comments about sharp colours, no grain, strong image detail etc apply, with the only minor flaw being some slight edge enhancement at times. Still, another excellent job from WB.
A constantly active 5.1 mix is provided, which does a brilliant job of making the gunfights, car chases and club scenes come to life beautifully; whoever was the sound designer for the film should take a bow, as this is one of the most aggressive uses of surround effects I have so far heard. However, a problem is that dialogue is frequently drowned out by the noise of the sound effects, with a weak centre channel meaning that speech is often inaudible, almost to the point of needing subtitles. Of course, this isn't a problem most of the time, but it's enough to take the rating down a couple of points.
A tiresome making-of documentary is provided, the only attraction of which is that it's slightly more candid (i.e DMX says 'motherfucker') than the usual HBO specials; otherwise, it's business as usual. The 'day with Anthony Anderson' featurette is simply a short piece about Anderson's filming day; there are a few minor laughs, but it's not very interesting. A limp music video, trailer and cast and crew bios round out a pretty weak selection of extras (but, then again, it's not the sort of film that would really benefit from commentaries, and God only knows what a scene would have to be like to be deleted from this!)
An entertaining enough action film, albeit a fairly moronic and slightly unpleasant one, gets a disc with excellent picture and sound quality, but very weak extras. That's all there is to it, really. I await Seagal's long-rumoured version of Hamlet with some interest.