Collateral Damage

Directed by Andrew Davis
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Elias Koteas, Francesca Neri, Cliff Curtis, John Leguizamo, John Turturro.
MPAA Rating: R for violence and some language.

Review by Matt Heffernan <matt@filmhead.com>
February 21, 2002

With his previous two films, Arnold Schwarzenegger had an interesting little trend going. Both End of Days and The 6th Day had a sort of campy quality that I found almost endearing. They were bad films, no doubt, but they seemed to be self-conscious, like the old Adam West "Batman" series. In that respect, they were rather entertaining -- good films to laugh at. His latest is, unfortunately, a humorless action piece so gravely serious about terrorism that its release was delayed after 9/11.

He even plays a fireman (as if the rest wasn't bad enough) named Gordy Brewer. After a long night of rescuing people from a burning building, he finds his son not feeling well. His wife takes him to the doctor's office and tells Gordy to pick the boy up. Somehow, both mother and son end up having lunch outside the Colombian Consulate, waiting for Gordy to arrive. Once he gets there, he sees them sitting at an outdoor table and waves to them. While the waving continues for about, oh, two minutes, a bomb goes off behind them, killing all the diners instantly and just missing some diplomats and CIA agents.

The perpetrator is identified as a Colombian warlord called "The Wolf" (Cliff Curtis). He wants his guerilla army to live in freedom from the Colombian government and American intervention so that they may manufacture their cocaine in peace. Not about to let some blow-pushing jungle warriors get away with murder, Gordy goes down to Colombia himself to enact his own brand of vigilante justice. Meanwhile, CIA Agent Brandt (Elias Koteas), who was at the bombing and has since returned to his post in Colombia, sees this rogue action as a good excuse to bomb the hell out of some Colombian civilians in the name of a rescue mission.

Indeed, this film would have freaked the country out if it had been released in early October 2001 as planned. It contains many sensitive issues, as you can see, even if the enemy turns out to be different. It also isn't very pro-military, which might be embarrassing now to Schwarzenegger, who is a close ally of the hawkish Republicans running the show in Washington and Afghanistan. It depicts Koteas' CIA man as some kind of bloodthirsty lunatic who enjoys gunning down the dark peasants -- not exactly the image that the Bushies want us to see.

As for the quality of the film itself, there's not much to say. The screenplay by David and Peter Griffiths is absurd, but unfortunately not laughable. There is no sense of continuity, much less logic, in the fabric of the film. The only interesting things are brief supporting roles by John Turturro and John Leguizamo, who try to make the most of the substandard material. Several of Leguizamo's lines, in fact, seemed to be of his own creation. The rest is deadly dull, especially Schwarzenegger, who phones it in from farther than he has in years. By the time the twist ending comes along, it's impossible to care anymore.

It almost pains me to say this, but I think Arnold deserves much better. He's come a long way as a screen actor and he's ready for something more intelligent. Obviously he's no great thespian, but he has enough money to show good taste in the projects he selects. Hopefully, with James Cameron's True Lies 2 coming along, he can get his game back.


For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
Collateral Damage (2002)

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Collateral Damage: Soundtrack -- Compact Disc


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Review © 2002 Matt Heffernan