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(2001) (Steven Seagal, DMX) (R)

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Action/Drama: While investigating a rich gangster and dealing with the cops in his new precinct, a renegade Detroit detective discovers that things aren't always what they seem.
Orin Boyd (STEVEN SEAGAL) is a renegade Detroit cop whose prickly attitude and illegal means of enforcing the law have him demoted to the worst precinct in the city, despite having just saved the life of the Vice President of the United States. His new captain, Annette Mulcahy (JILL HENNESSY), knows of his reputation and lays down the law of her operation for him, going so far as to sending him to an anger management class where he meets Henry Wayne (TOM ARNOLD), the high-strung host of a local TV talk show.

Despite such measures, they don't stymie his inquisitive cop nature and it's not long before he comes across some sort of crime involving local gangster Latrell Walker (DMX) and his fast-talking sidekick, T.K. (ANTHONY ANDERSON) doing an illegal deal with a man by the name of Montini (DAVID VADIM). After a brief fight, Orin discovers that Montini has been working undercover trying to nab Walker, a point that doesn't sit well with the detective's muscle-bound partner, Useldinger (MATTHEW G TAYLOR).

Not all of the cops give Orin a hard time, however, as Strutt (MICHAEL JAI WHITE) steps in to cool things down and local officer George Clarke (ISAIAH WASHINGTON) is soon assigned as his amiable partner. After uncovering the theft of fifty kilos of heroin, Orin and George begin focusing their investigatory efforts on Latrell and T.K., with Orin asking Henry to do some digging on Latrell's background.

As he keeps digging and receives more information about the gangster, Orin soon uncovers a conspiracy of corruption within the force, a discovery that soon leads to imminent danger and surprising revelations that prove that things aren't always what they seem.

OUR TAKE: 3 out of 10
Considering that the value of Hollywood talent often fluctuates as much as the stock market - and always has - I'm surprised it took so long for someone to track actors, actresses and those behind the camera in a fashion similar to that of the Dow Jones or NASDAQ. After all, producers invest millions into the cast and crew of their films just like venture capitalists and financial investors do with traditional companies and stocks, and are likewise hoping for and/or expecting similarly big returns on their investments.

Of course, the Hollywood Stock Exchange decided to do just that in the mid 1990s, and it only makes sense. After all, Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts are now like the blue chips that always deliver in a reliable fashion. Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock are more risky investments, as one never knows if they're going to deliver spectacular returns or stunning misfires. Then there are the likes of Pauly Shore who are the penny stocks of Hollywood that few want to touch.

I didn't take the time to look up the current value of martial arts star/action hero Steven Seagal, but I can only imagine that his trajectory has been steadily heading downward from left to right over the past several years. That's because ever since his 1992 hit film, "Under Siege" made somewhere in the ballpark of $83 million at the domestic box office, the returns of films where he was the main star have steadily gone from okay (1994's "On Deadly Ground" made $38 million) to mediocre (1995's "Under Siege 2" brought in $23 million) to poor with only $16 million collected for 1997's "Fire Down Below."

His last major film, 1998's "The Patriot" (not to be confused with Mel Gibson's 2000 film of the same name) wasn't even released in theaters in the U.S. Of course, some may argue that like many action stars, his international returns are still strong, but they'd be wrong, as those numbers have followed the same downward trajectory.

I'm not trying to pick on Mr. Seagal with such comments - I'm sure he's a fine human being and all if one overlooks his inability to act - but instead I'm pointing out the risky investment successful producer Joel Silver has undertaken by placing Steverino in the lead of his latest, high-octane picture, "Exit Wounds." A run of the mill urban action flick, the film may offer enough loud mayhem and onscreen activity to prevent a good, ninety-some minute nap, but it's otherwise just another redundant and mediocre film that steadily gets worse the further along it progresses.

Since director Andrzej Bartkowiak ("Romeo Must Die") and screenwriters Ed Horowitz ("On Deadly Ground") and Richard D'Ovidio (marking his feature debut) obviously didn't care to put much effort into making any sort of original or interesting film from author John Westermann's source novel, I've decided to let my broker finish writing the review by pointing out a few things that future investors should consider and/or demand when thinking about investing in a film like this:

*First, see if the film stars Steven Seagal. That's usually enough said, but if necessary add some quick edits and other camera tricks to make the 50-year-old star's martial arts and fighting scenes seem even more "exciting" and authentic." Also, check and see if he's scheduled to play a steely, loner cop who uncovers corruption and seems to live for breaking the rules and irritating his commanding officers in a "Go ahead, make my day" approach. That will be a refreshing change from most cop pictures.

*Of course, such a character should be mad and irritated if he's been punished for having the audacity to save the Vice President's life. What was he thinking? Anyway, if that happens, make sure to have the character sent to the worst precinct in the city where he'll obviously have little chance of getting into additional trouble and/or further irritating his bosses.

*Speaking of which, be sure to give the main character an impossibly beautiful captain, but make sure that after he confuses her for the secretary and insults her by mistake, that there's a little bit of sexual tension between them. While you're at it and continuing that completely original mistaken identity thread, make sure that the hero busts some criminals only to discover that one of the perps is actually an undercover cop. No one will see that coming.

*If a character can down a helicopter with a few shots from his handgun or take out a horde of bad guys with the same when a bunch of highly trained Secret Service agents can't manage to do anything but be shot, you might need to add some more bad guys and additional firepower and hardware.

*However, if there's a rap soundtrack, a rap star turned actor, and at least one scene set in strip club with topless dancers, that will distract the potential viewers and give the film an edgy and raw feel rarely seen in movies. Oh, don't forget to have a scene where the bodybuilding contestants from the Mr. Universe contest - oops, I mean the other cops - show how macho they are by inflicting masochistic pain on themselves while shirtless. That will impress viewers with how tough they are and will make them understand why the hero needs to hit them 28 times over the head - rather than the usual 20 - to make them blink.

*Speaking of which, make sure there's one of those human bodies that the hero can use as a shield against a hail of machine gun fire. I'm not sure how they prevent those bullets from passing by or through them to hit the protagonist, but it must be some sort of magnetic trick similar to the one employed by those cars and trucks that can be riddled by similar fire until they look like Swiss cheese, but nevertheless manage to protect those inside. Side note: Make sure to order one for yourself - the car, not the body (they're too heavy to carry around everywhere).

*Check and make sure that the ratio of stunt choreographers and performers to screenwriters is at least 250 to 1. After all, those writers think they're so important when we know that all the viewer really wants to see is outrageous action and fighting, and not any of that stupid plot or character development.

*Also, make sure that some of the characters that initially appear good are actually bad, and then take that even further by doing the same with some of the bad guys. That will knock the viewer's socks off, since we all know that all movie cops and villains have always remained true to their initial characteristics and no one will be expecting such a switcheroo.

*Finally, and if at all possible, don't screen the film for critics at all or at least until the last possible moment so that they can't have the chance to let readers know how unrealistic their expectations are and how snobby they can be when it comes to fine, high quality films such as this one.

If you do let them see it, they'll probably comment on how the younger performers such as DMX ("Romeo Must Die," "Belly"), Isaiah Washington ("Romeo Must Die," "True Crime") and Michael Jai White ("Spawn," "Universal Soldier: The Return") make Mr. Seagal seem a bit stiff and limited in expressive range, or that Tom Arnold ("True Lies," "Nine Months") and Anthony Anderson ("See Spot Run," "Me, Myself and Irene") are really only funny during the an end credits sequence that obviously seems improvised rather than scripted (see above notes about screenwriters).

They'll also likely make some smart aleck concluding remarks where they'll use the title in what they think is some clever way stating something along the lines of the exit wounds that this picture will suffer will be those of people hitting their heads on the way out of the theater after being subjected to all of the mayhem and inanity. Some will probably also give it a rating of 3 out of 10. But what do they know? Anyway, good luck with your investment - you're probably going to need it.

Reviewed March 15, 2001 / Posted March 16, 2001

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