Collateral Damage

Of all the films delayed in the aftermath of 9/11, Collateral Damage had the highest profile because of its coincidental similarities. A terrorist attack destroys a building. For further references, Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a firefighter. His wife and son died in the attack, and he goes to hunt down the bomber to avenge his family. Yes, it may have been a good decision to delay the film in light of events, but this film is pure male escapist fantasy that is easily removed from reality. It is the direction that Schwarzenegger (The 6th Day, End of Days) seems to be going. Instead of playing fantastical characters like a killer robot, commando, or government agent, he prefers to play an ordinary guy who rises to the occasion to do heroic things. It's getting old, and for a person like Schwarzenegger, it is completely out of touch with reality.

Gordon Brewer (Schwarzenegger) decides to go it alone when he realizes the government will is not going to seek justice the way he wants it. Agent Peter Brandt (Elias Koteas, Lost Souls, Novocaine) heads the CIA taskforce in charge of finding El Lobo (Cliff Curtis, The Majestic, Training Day), the terrorist behind the bombing. In a manner of ruthless efficiency, director Andrew Davis (A Perfect Murder, Chain Reaction) has Brewer travel to Columbia and quickly find his way to El Lobo, despite the fact he is only a firefighter and legions of CIA agents were unable to do so in the past. The film slows down to give Schwarzenegger time to kick some butt before zooming ahead in the plot, which is little more than a series of action sequences. Action movies by definition are slightly unbelievable, but the leaps in logic that screenwriters David and Peter Griffiths and Ronald Roose want the audience believe are almost laughable. Arnold can succeed out of pure determination and a little luck, morphing into a god-like MacGuyver in the process.

Even more laughable is Davis' attempts to throw some ambiguity into the issue of right and wrong. El Lobo is fighting for his people. Is Brewer, by wanting to kill El Lobo just as bad as El Lobo is? Collateral Damage even portrays the CIA as shady, blurring the lines between good and evil. Please don't try to throw meaning into a movie like this. It only cheapens the message. This is a movie where the viewer's brain must shut down and watch the big explosions as they rip across the screen. The explosions are nice, but seemingly hastily cobbled together just for the sake of blowing someting up.

Schwarzenegger has little credibility as a fireman. The fact that he is able, after a little bit of research, to find an elusive terrorist in a country in the midst of civil war is a riot. The CIA never is really that concerned that he can do all this either. The roles he picks lately are roles just for him, never asking him to stretch his acting ability in any way. This is a Schwarzenegger movie in most aspects. Nobody else even has enough screen time to register, except for maybe Francesca Neri (Hannibal, I Love Andrea). John Leguizamo (Moulin Rouge!, What's the Worst That Could Happen?) and John Turturro (Monkeybone, The Man Who Cried) show up, but just for a little. On a final note, in a movie full of Columbians, for once, actor Miguel Sandoval (Panic, Blow) is not playing one of them. Go Miguel!

Haro Rates It: Pretty Bad.
1 hour, 49 minutes, Rated R for violence and some language.

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