Steven Seagal, the comedian? The action star — who has seen his box-office fortunes fade in recent years ( Fire Down Below anyone?) — mixes kicking and punchlines in his latest film,

Exit Wounds (opening Friday).

"I always knew I could do humor," says Seagal, who sheds his trademark ponytail in the film. "I did a cameo as myself in Billy Crystal's My Giant, and some of the critics said I was funnier than Billy. Not that I was."

In Exit Wounds, Seagal spoofs his superhero persona by playing a tough cop who suddenly finds he can't do anything right. "My favorite thing is poking fun at my own image," confesses the actor, whose character is demoted to directing traffic and has to take an anger management class. "It lets people know that you're human and you're not living this delusion of ego about something that isn't real anyway."

Seagal's Exit Wounds co-star, rapper DMX, learned the hard way that he's no man of steel. The chart-topper — who recently served a 15-day jail sentence for driving without a license — was injured while filming a fight sequence with Seagal. "DMX is not really a fighter," Seagal explains. "He has a bad shoulder, and as soon as we started, it popped out and he was in a lot of pain."

And should Exit Wounds blow a hole through Seagal's tough-guy rep, he's not concerned. As it is, he's more than happy to remind people that he can take on bad guys — on and off the big screen. "Once in a while somebody will challenge me to see if I am who I am," he says. "When it gets to that, I say, 'If you're ready... come on over.' And they always go, 'No, I'm going the other way.'"