February 9, 2002 -- Once the biggest movie star in the world, Arnold Schwarzenegger's star is on the decline, as can be clearly seen in his latest effort "Collateral Damage," an average action film that is rather sloppily put together.
There was a time when Schwarzenegger wouldn't be caught dead in a film like this, where the stunts and special effects are not first-rate and script is poorly written. However, since his recent films have not performed well at the box office, he's not able to pick and choose the best directors and producers as he once did. Too bad, this is film that is right for the national mood. A fireman for a hero, getting revenge against a terrorist. What could resonate better with the American psyche in these perilous, frustrating times? This film, of course, was made prior to September 11, but the opening was delayed several months out of respect for the victims of those terrorist attacks.
Schwarzenegger plays the fireman action hero, Gordon Brewer, whose wife and son are murdered by a terrorist bomb. The government seems powerless to deal with the terrorist, Claudio "The Wolf" Perrini (played by Cliff Curtis of "Training Day"), so Brewer heads to Columbia to find him and dispense his own kind of justice. Not only does Brewer have to get to Columbia without the proper government traveling papers, but he has to elude Perrini's guerilla force, the local police and the CIA, headed by rogue agent Peter Brandt (Elias Koteas of "Novocaine"). Brandt is one of many morally ambiguous characters in the film.
The story requires a big suspension of disbelief. In one scene, Brewer gets thrown in a seedy Columbian jail, but the guards let him keep his money. In another scene, Brewer and his men suddenly have breathing masks and air tanks in a burning building, when they didn't have the equipment seconds before. Brewer is captured several times, but always manages to escape without being harmed. He is able to quickly track down Perrini, when the CIA, with all of its resources and all of its men, can't. The special effects are also sloppy. In one scene, there is supposed to be a fire in a room outside of the stairwell where Brewer is hiding. One can see the image shake in the doorway, indicating a blue screen, or similar kind of effect that was added later in the production process.
Schwarzenegger, bulging biceps and all, is also getting a little old for this action hero stuff. He is old enough to qualify for membership in the American Association of Retired Persons. When Arnold sinks to the level of beating up women for money, it is pretty sad. I wouldn't blame Schwarzenegger for the mediocrity of this film, however, there is plenty of blame to go around. Schwarzenegger does his usual stoic acting job, but he needs help to carry the story. Unfortunately, some of the best actors in the film, John Leguizamo of "Moulin Rouge!" and John Turturro of "O Brother Where Art Thou?" are not given much to do. They are on screen for all too brief a time. All the characters, except for Brewer, are shallow, and they are not given the opportunity to develop. There is a twist or two at the end of the film, but not enough to make it really interesting, and one of the twists is an unbelievably sick method for creating an adoption opportunity. The result of the twist defies credulity, even more than the rest of the plot. This film rates a C.
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