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Exit Wounds

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Exit Wounds

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After hitting an apex with 1992's hugely successful and surprisingly well-received Under Siege, Steven Seagal's career slid slowly, steadily, and deservedly downhill, bottoming out with 1998's The Patriot, which skipped multiplexes altogether on its hasty trip to video stores and cable. Alas, you can't keep a scowling, affect-impaired martial artist down, and Seagal returns to theaters, zombie-like presence intact, with Exit Wounds, a vehicle so generic it might as well arrive bearing the title Interracial Buddy-Cop Thriller. Seagal, who first appears while pulling one of his trademark wild, civilian-endangering stunts, plays to type as a rule-breaking renegade cop sent to work in a notoriously dangerous inner-city precinct as punishment for throwing the vice-president off a bridge (while, incidentally, saving his life). While there, he stumbles upon a web of police corruption that may or may not have something to do with DMX, a wealthy, enigmatic businessman. Seagal is his usual robotic self, but DMX shows real promise, exhibiting a raw charisma that suggests he could evolve into a legitimate actor instead of just a moonlighting rap star. Early on, Exit Wounds seems refreshingly willing to play with and satirize Seagal's sociopath-on-lithium persona—at one point, his partner asks him if he really beat a suspect unconscious with a dead cat—but those glimmers fade quickly, making way for bullet-riddled business as usual. Like Romeo Must Die, which also teamed DMX, producer Joel Silver, and director Andrzej Bartkowiak (a former cinematographer who gives Wounds a sleek, kinetic look), Exit Wounds boasts a plot that's simultaneously simplistic, needlessly convoluted, and virtually incoherent. It qualifies as one of Seagal's better films, but it's still every bit as violent and undistinguished as its almost comically grim title would suggest.