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Apr 4, 2016Arnold Schwarzenegger as a man of feeling? His eyes puffy with tears? That's just one of the unforgettable, yet strangely irrelevant images from "Collateral Damage," in which Mr. Schwarzenegger plays Gordy, a Los Angeles firefighter who finds out exactly how ineffectual the United States government is when his wife and young son are killed by a Colombian terrorist, Claudio (Cliff Curtis).Arnold Schwarzenegger as a man of feeling? His eyes puffy with tears? That's just one of the unforgettable, yet strangely irrelevant images from "Collateral Damage," in which Mr. Schwarzenegger plays Gordy, a Los Angeles firefighter who finds out exactly how ineffectual the United States government is when his wife and young son are killed by a Colombian terrorist, Claudio (Cliff Curtis).
When it's obvious that Gordy is a pawn being used by a bloodthirsty C.I.A. agent, Brandt (Elias Koteas), to further his goals in battling Colombian terrorists, Gordy takes things into his own hands. And instead of wrapping his guttural mutterings around wisecracks, the hero of "Damage" begins an odyssey that takes him to the jungles of Panama, through which he treks in order to slip into Colombia to avenge his family.
"Damage" was withdrawn from an intended fall 2001 release after the events of Sept. 11, though it feels like a film that's been kept on the shelf since 1989. The movie sat around for so long that it has managed to become newsworthy again: a public service commercial ran during the Super Bowl equated cocaine use with financing terrorism, an idea that may give "Damage" a new lease on life. And "Collateral Damage" — the title derives from the observation that Gordy's wife and son were collateral damage in the battle between Colombian terrorists and the United States — could use a new lease.
Except for the brief passings of emotion on Gordy's face, this is an exhausted rehash of Mr. Schwarzenegger breaking through red tape to struggle against his nemesis of the moment. The trumpeting of past triumphs by the director also surfaces. The ads remind us that the movie is directed by Andrew Davis, the man behind "The Fugitive." Mr. Davis also directed "Chain Reaction," another limp, somnolent action picture with a generic martial title. And like "Reaction," "Damage" only shows real confidence during the action sequences, like the one involving a fire that Gordy and his men fight during the opening credits; the flames roar and hiss like Godzilla.
After these sequences, Mr. Davis can't find a way to get back to the war of conscience that he juxtaposes with the conflagrations. As a result, the attempts to bring characterization to the movie — like awkward exchanges on political stances when Gordy and Claudio meet — are so awkward that you expect the actors to break up.
"Seems like we're both willing to kill for a cause, so what's the difference between you and I?" Claudio sneers smugly, after having been accused of murdering innocent women and children on his path to his political ends. (The speechifying will have a leaden effect on audiences.) "The difference," Gordy says, shifting his granite facial planes toward the camera — bringing to mind an SUV twirling on a pedestal in a commercial — "is I'm only gonna kill you."
There are moments when "Damage" wants to stretch its tired action-man skin in a new direction. Gordy is trapped as much between his own anger and guilt as he is in a struggle between the two warring sides. The C.I.A. wants to use him as bait while the terrorists want to take him hostage.
He befriends a Colombian woman (Francesca Neri, who, like most Colombians in "Damage," speaks good English). When these elements are playing out, the picture shows glimpses of aspiring to a Graham Greene story. But as the bodies pile up and Gordy's jaw becomes more deeply set, the plot is more like a Graham Cracker story — crumbly and insubstantial.
And Claudio, despite his intellectual poses, is still capable of the kinds of baroque violence redolent of Arnold Schwarzenegger movies. When a subordinate of Claudio's lets him down — apparently, even with the sorry state of the world economy, good criminal help is still hard to find — Claudio has the man's mouth forced open so that a snake can crawl into his body.
Amazingly, given its brief 110-minute length, "Collateral Damage" still manages to squeeze in several different endings — like a bad pop song that doesn't know when to fade out. But as Mr. Schwarzenegger's stature as an action figure diminishes, his effort to retain a piece of the market is touching.
"Collateral Damage" has one thing going for it — it's one of the few movies in which an American (John Turturro) plays a Canadian, instead of the other way around. He is Armstrong, a lower-tier reprobate who is a kindred piece of casting to the bouncing, bow-legged cocaine factory owner portrayed for a couple of scenes by John Leguizamo. The only times that Mr. Schwarzenegger seems comfortable is with these calculated scene-stealers. At least with them, "Collateral Damage" doesn't seem hypocritical, attacking the same violence that infuses it.… Expand
PatC.Jan 13, 2004Travelogue, with Arnold as the conde nasty tourist. Move over Mel, Arnold wants to use the revenge-by-a-shell-of-a-family-man gimmick. If you're an Arnold fan, find it, view it, get it over with. To the rest of you, if God hadn't wanted you to see it eventually he would have smitten the hundreds of cable channels that every day have to fill thousands of hours of programming.
GilbertMulroneycakes'VideoCasseteRecorderDec 4, 2002No. No. NO. Get the HELL out of here. Now. And here was I thinking that claims that certain films insulted the audience were exaggerated. Ha!
PaulD.Oct 8, 2002Unbelievable is too mild a word for this stinker.
RickJ.G.Jul 7, 2002I wasn't expecting a Hollywood production to accurately reflect the current realities of Colombia ravaged by more than $1 billion in U.S. military aid to the country's brutal military and para-militaries. The movie also insults historical memory when the term "Collateral Damage" is introduced in the movie by a representative of a Colombia solidarity organization. An irony I wasn't expecting a Hollywood production to accurately reflect the current realities of Colombia ravaged by more than $1 billion in U.S. military aid to the country's brutal military and para-militaries. The movie also insults historical memory when the term "Collateral Damage" is introduced in the movie by a representative of a Colombia solidarity organization. An irony considering the term was brought into common usage during the Gulf War by the administration of President Bush, Sr., who Schwarzenegger campaigned for when he made his two presidential runs in '88 and '92. A dreadful movie. I wish I hadn't put myself through it. … Expand
MichaelF.Apr 1, 2002This movied flat-out sucks. It's bad from beginning to end. Bad writing, directing, acting etc... Silly and stupid, its only fun to laugh at. And what action? The only good thing about this piece of ... is the finale, which is entertaining but doesn't make up for all of the ... the movie is throwing at us. Andy Davis, what ever happened to The Fugitive?
AdamG.Feb 10, 2002The worst part thus far is not that he movie openly ignored the US role in the drug trade or the brutality of the right wing militias trained by the US and funded indirectly via Plan Colombia by us but that it occasionally getrs close to giving the movie a point and then bloodily runs screaming from any kind of intelligent and worthwhile conclusion.
In a way, Collateral Damage is redeemed by its implausibility, because the closer it comes to reality, the more disturbing it gets. For once, viewers have reason to be grateful for having their intelligence insulted.