Legendary action flick producer Joel Silver has had his ups and downs but has been riding high lately from The Matrix and Romeo Must Die. Somewhere along the way he decided to use his current clout to rehabilitate the career of an action star that has seen better times than the last five years. Of course, that could be just about anybody. In this case, it’s Steven Seagal. Gone are the ponytail and uh, well-fed mid-section. Unfortunately, he still acts like Clint Eastwood with a head-cold. For the occasion, Silver bought the rights to John Westermann’s novel “Exit Wounds”. Near as I can tell, screenwriters Ed Horowitz and Richard D’Ovidio may have gone as far to read the synopsis off the back.
Detroit cop Orin Boyd (Seagal) is one of the loner/maverick types that has to do things his own way and seems to always be in the news for roughing a suspect up. After dumping the Vice-President of the United States off a bridge while saving his life from terrorists, Boyd is punished with a transferal to the city’s roughest precinct, the 15th. This is a place with some problems. Many of Boyd’s new co-workers seem to be even more cavalier about suspects’ rights than he is, beating and framing those in their custody. Worse, some of them may be involved in much more straightforward criminal activities. Just as Boyd tries to take it all in, mysterious crime lord Latrell Walker (DMX) hits town, looking to make some deals. Could those deals be with cops? Which of his fellow officers are not quite what they seem? Walker isn’t even what he seems to be. Orin is used to charging in and taking down the bad guys, but he first has to figure out who they are. Somehow I think the audience will figure it out well before he does.
Director Andrzej Bartkowiak (Romeo Must Die) does an okay job, but I’m not sure what he really had to work with here. As Westermann’s original novel was set in on suburban Long Island, I doubt it had quite as many lengthy fight scenes as depicted here. If anything, the script seems to borrow from the Rampart Division scandal, the latest in a long line of scandals and incidents involving the Los Angeles Police Department. You can look it up on the net. The cops involved in that debacle don’t seem to have been quite as organized as the ones in this movie, but have allegedly perpetrated at least as much evil. The film does exhibit a major problem typical of book adaptations; it’s overburdened with plot and supporting characters. The problem is that for many of them, they just don’t have the screen-time allotted to establish an image before the movie reveals where they stand. About the only exception is DMX. Billed as co-star, the rapper is treated to plenty of screen time, including his own martial-arts scenes with and without Seagal. Here’s hoping he got out of his recent jail sentence with plenty of time to attend the premiere. DMX doesn’t seem to be the most demonstrative of actors, but at least his face moves a little more than Seagal’s.
I’m sure no one is going to see this film expecting a masterpiece. That’s good because you’re really not going to get one. I doubt somebody will quite see the career upswing he’s looking for, either, but there are worse ways to blow a couple of hours. For instance, you could rent one of Seagal’s last two films.