July 29, 2003
The biggest money making genre in film history has always been the action movie, with Schwarzenegger, Stallone, and Van Damme leading the way. Here we’re going to look at the greatest action star to ever throw away his badge and be told he’s off the case, the portly one himself – Steven Seagal.
It’s been four years since the pony tailed dynamo last appeared on the big screen in the Glimmer Man. His movies after then were cursed with the ‘straight to HBO cable’ tag. Now he blasts back in the Joel Silver actioner ‘Exit Wounds’, and this time he plays a cop.
I was talking to a friend in the pub about our mutual love of movies, and the conversation naturally turned to Steven Seagal. I asked, which is your favourite Seagal movie? ‘There’s one where he plays a cop, he dresses in black and sports a pony tail. His captain hates him, he’s got a shady past, an ex-wife and he teams up with a mismatched partner to solve a case of police corruption. What’s that one called again?’
He’d just described no fewer than six Steven Seagal movies, including ‘Exit Wounds’. Nico, Hard to Kill, Out for Justice, Marked for Death, The Glimmer Man and now Exit Wounds have all followed this well traveled and well worn path for a Seagal movie. His only real forays away from the ‘Cop’ movie have been those of special forces master Casey Ryback in the Under Siege films. His three other movies ‘On Deadly ground’, ‘Fire Down Below’ and ‘The Patriot’ have seen him as an ex-special forces expert.
So in an acting career that has spanned thirteen years and twelve films Seagal has played six cops, three special forces experts, three ex-special forces experts and has had more flashbacks than you can shake a stick at. Clearly Seagal is a man of unlimited acting range.
Let us not forget that Seagal actually started as a fight coordinator and was persuaded to take up acting by none other than Sean Connery on the set of ‘Never Say Never Again’. You’ve done some bad things in your time Sean…
Casey Ryback, Mason Storm, Jack Cole and now Orin Boyd. These are just some of the brilliant names that adorn a Seagal character, and are as much anticipated as the portly powerhouse’s next owl skin jacket..
After filming had finished on ‘The Matrix’, producer Joel Silver said that he was tired of making big dumb action movies and that he would now concentrate more on character based films. His next project? Exit Wounds with Steven Seagal.
So, what of Exit Wounds? Is it just another Seagal run of the mill churn ’em out bog standard action flick? Could Seagal do anything else? Of course he couldn’t and yes it is, but it achieves what it sets out to do.
Surely this film doesn’t start off with another convenience store robbery that Seagal walks in on, followed by the standard Aikido based whooping that he dispenses to the disrespectful bad guys? Well no, actually it’s an assassination attempt on the Vice President involving crooked cops. So Seagal, through daring courage and improvisation, saves the life of the Vice President by throwing him off a bridge, and how is he rewarded? His Captain shouts at him and transfers him out of the precinct.
‘I’m your friend and your boss. As your friend, you don’t follow orders, you’re unmanageable, hell you don’t even obey the law. And now as your boss, you’re fired.’
This kind of treatment has followed Seagal’s ‘cop’ persona around through every film, and is with him once again here in Exit Wounds.
Seagal plays lone wolf Detroit detective Orin Boyd, who after being transferred to the roughest precinct for throwing the Vice President off a bridge discovers a wealth of police corruption. He’s thrown together with a mismatched family man for a partner and sets out to unravel the extent to which the corruption has spread. You all know the story from here, they try to kill him, he uses some Aikido to whoop ’em good and then naturally at some point stumbles onto to a totally unrelated robbery so that he can squeeze one more action sequence into the film. It’s classic Seagal, if there is such a thing.
At one point in the film Orin Boyd, in punishment for yet another indiscretion, is sent to an anger management class where he meets attention seeking Tom Arnold. The makers of the film claim that this is to show a human side to Boyd thus getting his character away from spoof. Yet Seagal tearing apart a desk and saying ‘I’m not angry, this is my happy face’ is about as spoofy as any scene could get. When the makers of a Seagal film miss the mark, they miss it by a country mile.
There’s something about Seagal’s face that just makes me laugh. The way he can display several emotions with just one look shows an acting range only rivaled by Keanu Reeves.
What sets this apart from other Seagal movies is that it’s actually not that bad. The action sequences, in particular one car chase and very realistic crash are genuinely exciting and very well directed. If you can forgive the presence of Seagal that is. The plot is also one of refreshing complexity, yes there’s a rogue cop, police corruption and double crosses but there are also some interesting plot twists… honest. Again you must forgive the presence of Seagal.
Hip Hop star DMX plays an e-commerce pioneer who has made his money in the dot com industry and then sold up before the bubble burst. This man does not look like a computer geek at all, he’s not pale, thin, gawky and I’m sure he knows what girls are. He’s everything Bill Gates isn’t but that’s basically who he’s supposed to be.
Seagal weighs in with some brand new moves in Exit Wounds – including some you might have thought Seagal would never make. He combines his renowned Aikido style with some wire assisted Kung Fu moves, even jumping a car at one point! In the making of documentary included on the DVD producer Dan Cracchiolo comments on the car jump:
‘A unique thing to do with a guy that is that large’
He’s not kidding.
There’s even a hint of romance, and it’s always enjoyable watching Seagal attempt to express his movie love. His stern yet attractive female captain at the new precinct throws him the occasional glance and smile, which Seagal would happily reciprocate, if only he knew how to move his facial muscles. Genius.
Co-stars Anthony Anderson and Tom Arnold have a comedian battle royale for the biggest laughs, and rather like Chris Rock and Joe Pesci from Lethal Weapon 4 it gets just a little too annoying. But if you watch the special features which include a day on the set with Anthony Anderson you’ll see him use Tom Arnold’s tooth brush to clean his toilet. Advantage Anderson.
Other features on this DVD include the DMX music video for ‘ain’t no sunshine’, the theatrical trailer and a making of documentary. I don’t know why you need the music video, as every time you see DMX in the film he is accompanied by one of his hits blaring out. It’s as though we’re watching a musical.
Steven Seagal rather comically says that he’d taken a little time before coming back with Exit Wounds. That time off wasn’t really Seagal’s idea mind you. After Fire Down Below and The Patriot he had little choice.
In the making of documentary, producer Dan Cracchiolo describes Seagal’s character in all seriousness as ‘a cop on the edge’. This I found hysterical as in my student days, I made a self referential action comedy lampooning films such as this entitled, yes you’ve guessed it: ‘Cop on the Edge’. And they use this well worn term to describe a character? I give up.
The tag line for Exit Wounds’ theatrical poster reads ‘This is gonna hurt’. Yep. Unless you’re a hard core Seagal fan this might not be for you, but if the portly one rocks your boat as he does mine then this film is as good as Seagal movies get. Probably better than previous high points Under Siege 2 and The Glimmer Man.
Exit Wounds has found its place nicely on my shelf next to the other eleven Seagal movies, and I look forward with sweaty palms to Seagal’s next offering of ‘cop throws away badge’ action.