`Wounds' won't leave you aching

Review: Steven Seagal is all about terror, corruption and car chases, but he adds a new element here - humor.

March 17, 2001|By Chris Hewitt | Chris Hewitt,KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

The less Steven Seagal has on his mind, the better.

When he pours on the pseudo-social-consciousness, the results, such as his un-eye-opening expose of ecological waste, "On Deadly Ground," are dreadful.

But when he cuts the garbage and opens up a six-pack of keister-kicking, as in the current "Exit Wounds," the results are mindless, empty and fairly entertaining.

As suggested by the title (ideas for sequels: "Head Injuries," "Mangled Limbs"), this is straight-ahead, streamlined mayhem. Lots of heads and bodies get smashed in the movie's many shootouts and punch-outs, and director Andrzej Bartkowiak efficiently connects the dots with stylish chase scenes.

As a bonus, there's plenty of self-mocking humor, provided by a surprisingly nimble Tom Arnold and by "Me, Myself and Irene's" good-natured Anthony Anderson. Not that it's saying much, but this is easily Seagal's most intentionally funny film.

Dialogue?

Yeah, there's some of that, and it's not the movie's strong suit. Seagal is a resilient cop, investigating a mystery man who is involved with the drug trade, played by rapper DMX. Along the way, we hear non sequitur dialogue like this: "You're like a cockroach. Every time I get rid of you, you appeal to the union and you're right back here." Which raises the question: Cockroaches belong to a union?

Entomological labor issues aside, it's good to see that Seagal has finally dropped the caftans and ponytail that made him look like a suburban housewife who's into tarot cards and that, in scenes set in an anger-management workshop, he's poking fun at his own image.

I could do without the movie's anti-cop bias and its multiple close-ups of impalings. It's also a hair too long.

But, all in all, "Exit Wounds" suggests that Seagal knows how to keep our eyes glued to the screen, when he puts his mind to it.

`Exit Wounds'

Starring Steven Seagal, DMX

Directed by Andrzej Bartkowiak

Released by Warner Bros.

Rated R (gruesome violence, language, nudity, drug use)

Running time 96 minutes

Sun score **

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