Posted: 02/11/2002

 

Collateral Damage

(2002)

by Chris Wood



Highest paid actor takes $30 million paycheck and blows it all on hats!


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But seriously, using the sarcastic subtitle as a segue, Arnold Schwarzenegger is an actor who wears a lot of hats. In movies like Kindergarten Cop and Twins, he wears the comedy hat, and in movies like Commando and Predator, he wears the action hat. In his latest film, Collateral Damage, postponed until now due to the September 11th tragedy, he still wears the action hat, but sticks a feather in it?and calls it compassion.

Yes, terrorism, a subject most are probably still wary of viewing on the big screen, is the main subject matter in this movie. Gordon Brewer (Arnold Schwarzenegger), an agile fireman, loving husband and father, is enjoying the American way of life when it is all taken away in a matter of seconds. This happens right in the beginning of the movie, so action lovers can start salivating at the mouth to see what the former Mr. Olympia will do to the “bad guys” who snuffed out his family.

And those wonderful one-liners that one can’t help repeating, like, “I’ll be back,” from Terminator 2, and “I’m the party pooper,” from Kindergarten Cop, said in a thick Austrian accent, are still around in this picture where Arnold’s character, bat in hand, trashing the office of a terrorism supporter, starts yelling, “I’ll give you Collateral Damage!”

So now, Brewer is going down to Columbia without any backup to storm into the terrorist’s camp with two high caliber guns and lots of camouflage face paint, to kill “The Wolf” (the terrorist believed to be the one behind the bombing of a building that killed his wife and son). However, that really doesn’t happen. He, instead, kind of haphazardly makes his way through Panama and into Columbia, not even once picking up a gun! The movie takes a different turn of events where Arnold, arguably the king of action, is limited in plot excuses for him to kick butt. Remember The Running Man? That whole movie revolved around the premise that Arnold’s character, Ben Richards, would be placed in situations where he would have to kill or be killed. But the movie still remained semi-entertaining, and action-movie-buffs will not be too disappointed.

This is due in part to a twist in the movie that is actually hard to see coming because most are probably not looking for something like that to take place. This makes act two a little more amusing and gives Arnold a chance to make up for the lack of action in act one.

Guest appearances by John Turturro (Monday Night Mayhem) as Sean Armstrong, a sleazy Canadian in Columbia who is imprisoned in the cell next to Arnold (don’t worry, it’s only a brief stay), and John Leguizamo (Moulin Rouge) as Felix Rameriez, a drug dealer who wants to be a musician, seem to have been purposely written into the script, but this is an action movie where plot is not always the most important thing.

The main reason that viewers will more than likely NOT flock to this movie like the swallows to Capistrano is its subject matter. The public may not want to be reminded of that surreal experience in September 2001, even though, in this movie, the terrorism plot is different. Other reasons could include the hindering accent of Arnold, lack of character development in his character’s wife and child, and an attempt at being too sympathetic and more human than hero. When making an action based movie with an extra-large actor known for his superhero-like persona, then big explosions, guns, hand-to-hand combat, and cool one-liners seem to be a winning recipe for success. In Collateral Damage, a few ingredients were missing. Hopefully, Arnold will take part in a project with a better chef next time (Brainstorm: Arnold and Emeril).

Chris Wood is not a syndicated film critic, but he plays one on TV.



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