Exit Wounds is one action flick in an unofficial yet unmistakable early 2000’s trilogy together with Romeo Must Die and Cradle 2 The Grave. What do they have in common, you may ask, that I’ve dubbed them a trilogy? Besides all three being directed by lo-fi action guru Andrej Bartkowiak and sharing many of the same cast members in a sort of recognizable posse, they just have this intangible time capsule vibe backed by hip hop music of the times from folks like Aaliyah and DMX, the presence of standup comedians in supporting roles, ridiculous plots built around endless set pieces and are just so totally ‘of their time’ that I love them on sheer novelty value alone. One day I’ll have to do a longer, more comprehensive piece on all three as a whole but I just rewatched Wounds for the first time in a while and it’s just as goddamn silly yet awesome as I remember it being when I was a teenager. It does feature Steven Seagal in a comeback of sorts, purged of his ponytailed zen phase and ready for some inner city urban destruction. He’s actually really dope as rogue detective Orin Boyd, a tough but reckless cop that no precinct seems to want as he has this uncanny knack for sniffing out and laying the hammer down on department corruption. After being fired by his former sergeant (Bruce McGill turning up the ham) for excessive force he’s assigned to a precinct elsewhere in Detroit under the command of a tough as nails CO played by the lovely Jill Hennessy. It isn’t long before he finds trouble again, tangles with mysterious drug runner DMX and uncovers a cabal of dirty officers doing no good shit headed up by Michael Jai White who is welcome in any film in my book. I can’t say the same for Tom Arnold though, who has to be one of *the most* irritating onscreen presences and I’m not sure why they keep letting him be in stuff but life is full of mysteries I guess. Anthony Anderson shows up as he does in all three in this trilogy and there’s appearances from Isaiah Washington m, Bill Duke and a very young Eva Mendes. This film only really has a plot to service action set pieces, which are all well done and exciting if you can get over the fact that there ain’t much else it has to offer. Seagal is good though and does some impressive stunt work like doing a fucking Olympic long jump thing over a car that’s speeding towards him. Fun stuff, but I’d recommend the other two in the trilogy first.
Here’s something fun (I hope). I’m going to expand the focus of my reviews to include video games, which should be interesting because my knowledge and expertise on them is nowhere close to what I know about film and your average dedicated gamer would probably refer to me as a ‘fucking casual,’ and hey they wouldn’t be wrong. But there’s a handful of games that mean a lot to me and I’ve enjoyed playing over the years, mainly ones with a deep, rich sense of story and cinematic atmosphere and lots of cool niche character actors providing voiceover work!
First up is NARC, a hectic, rambunctious shooter based on some old arcade game from even further back in the day as it was already released like ten years ago for PlayStation 2. This one creates a seedy urban environment where two cops, a go-getter rookie (Bill Bellamy) and an arrogant renegade (Michael Madsen) work to take down a ruthless international drug syndicate that takes them from stateside streets all the way over to Asia. It’s a scrappy game with very unrealistic physics and fighting but that kind of calls back to its arcade roots I guess. Madsen is fun as the asshole rogue cop who is addicted to both drugs and beating the shit out of perps, while Ron Perlman blusters his way through the obligatory Greek chorus role of their hard nosed precinct captain. Best of all is underrated Michael Wincott as the big bad, whose name is literally Mr. Big. He’s this weirdo paraplegic mega-villain who sits in a giant mechanized swivelling chair adorned in 50 caliber cannons that make quite the epic and goddamn frustrating final boss fight.
The coolest thing about this game is that you can actually do a bunch of drugs when you find them; coke makes you run super fast, ludes do something strange to your perception of time, LSD makes people’s heads get all funny and huge while weed (my favourite) puts you in this hazy dreamscape as Rasta music warbles out gently all around you. Speaking of music this has one amazing soundtrack too, sampling the likes of Peter Tosh, Cypress Hill, Curtis Mayfield, Lynrd Skynrd, The Stranglers (whose hit song Golden Brown dreamily plays whenever you shoot up heroin), The Toyes, Happy Monday’s, DMX and more. This is a cheeky, nihilistic, extremely violent, morally bankrupt, hilariously over the top piece of urban exploitation gaming and one of my absolute favourites from back in the PS2 era which, let’s face it, will probably be the main focus on these gaming reviews considering I’m all about the old school when it comes to any area of media entertainment.
Andrzej Bartkowiak’s Romeo Must Die is not a great flick, but I still somehow enjoy it if only for a few stylish scenes and the presence of Aaliyah before her tragic and fateful plane crash, which tugs at the heartstrings. It’s a pseudo Romeo & Juliet tale involving her and Jet Li caught up in Asian/African American gang warfare, but it’s more just a silly showcase for Li’s impressive martial arts prowess and a playground for several well staged shootouts. Bartkowiak is actually responsible for two very similar films of this ilk, Cradle 2 The Grave and Exit Wounds, which all have the same cast members running about and when viewed in succession create some weird holy trinity of kung fu urban crime lore. This one is probably the best I suppose, or at least the most memorable. Aaliyah is reprimanded by her gangster father (Delroy Lindo) and his incompetent lieutenants (Isiaah Washington and Anthony Anderson), while rambunctious Li is supervised by some vague cousin of his (half-asian Russell Wong, definitely the coolest character), and DMX growls out a few lines as a violent club owner also somehow involved. The romance is fleeting, swallowed up by zippy editing and deafening action sequences that come fast and frequent. Li jumps around while the rest of them empty all kinds of firepower all over Vancouver, and so it goes. It ain’t great, but the opener set in DMX’s club during a raid perpetrated by Wong and his crew is the highlight and seems to have been plucked from a far better action film.