2002 brings us another “in between Terminators” period, as I like to call it, film from one of the greatest action superstars off all time, Mr. Schwarzenegger. “Collateral Damage”, a movie that has Arnold past his prime as I see it but still looking in pretty good condition. This movie was originally supposed to be released in early October of 2001, but due to the very tragic events of September 11th it was pushed back because of its terrorist movie plot and explosion sequences. It was actually tested on an audience first before finally being released in early 2002.
In this film, Arnold is joined by Elias Koteas (Zodiac, Shutter Island) who plays an FBI agent who is hell bent on destroying terrorism against the United States at all costs, Cliff Curtis (10,000 BC, Live Free or Die Hard) as Claudio Perrini aka “The Wolf” along with John Leguizamo (Gamer, Ice Age trilogy). Arnold plays Gordy Brewer, a Los Angeles firefighter, who loses his wife and son to the terrorist attack of The Wolf which was meant for a different target. In acts of war, as Brewer is told in the film, deaths of the innocent are known as “collateral damage”and happens all the time. Obviously, this is Arnold we’re talking about, so we all know he isn’t just going to stand by and not inflict some of his own justice on the situation. That is exactly what he sets out to do but his mission is conflicted when he comes across Perrini’s wife and son themselves and comes to know the story of how this extreme terrorist acquired his terrible hatred for America. Brewer’s vision of vengeance collides with his humanity realizing he and his enemy are not so different people after all.
The acting in this film isn’t the greatest in the world but it conveys its message where as “violence begets more violence” and the solution is trying to find a stoppage point before it gets out of hand. By the end of the film, however, the audience is probably thinking along the lines of sometimes there might be no such thing. Arnold was never really known for his “acting” so much as for the action contained in his films, and he even took on some comedic roles such as in “Twins”, “Junior”, and the classic “Kindergarten Cop”(boys have a penis, girls have a vagina). This film was no Teminator, nonetheless, his role as a caring, heroic firefighter was very fitting, especially post 9/11. Even though this film was completed before those events, it felt as if it was a direct product because of that day. The rest of the cast put forth worthy performances, Elias Koteas as the FBI agent who is absolutely determined to declare war on Colombia in order to capture “The Wolf” was probably the best suited for the main co-star, as it seemed he probably could of carried this movie himself if he were the main character and it was a straight to DVD project. John Leguizamo is his usual fast talking, witty personality as one of Perrini’s employees but not really a bad guy himself. John Turturo (Transformers) also has a role as a fellow gringo worker that Arnold makes acquaintances with while in Colombia. His snappy one-liners and lyrics are as expected but never get old. Cliff Curtis does a meaningful job as the story’s antagonist, very believable as a Colombian who wants to make the American people pay for their crimes against his country.
It seemed like in this film, unlike other Schwarzenegger roles, Director Andrew Davis (The Fugitive), chose to make Arnold alot more vulnerable during his mission which once again shows his human side as opposed to his human destruction side as in other Schwarzenegger movies. For instance, I noticed he never used a gun in this film, never fired one, never reloaded one, only wrestled one away from a henchman and threw it aside. Fireman are trained and known for putting out fires and saving lives, not so much for blowing bad guys away. His arsenal was restricted to other kinds of weapons like, characteristicly, a fireman’s axe and his own fists.
The special effects were no “T2:Judgement Day” but decent, and rather expected. A better job could of been done, especially with the movie magic technology developed by 2002. But the story seemed to be the main focus of this film. Perhaps Davis didn’t want anything to take away from that. But acceptable pyrotechnics combined with some hand-to-hand combat scenes, especially my favorite where a handcuffed Arnold takes on “The Wolf” and one of his henchman at the same time which reminds me of “True Lies”, adds to the film nicely.
In conclusion, although not Arnold’s best work, obviously, this film got its message across to its audience and added yet another action flick to Mr. Schwarzenegger’s already hefty film resume. With “T3:Rise of the Machine’s” next on his list in 2003, and a cameo in “The Rundown” starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in the same year, Arnold seemed liked he was pretty finished making movies and ready to run the state of California by the time this one was getting down to the credits. I give it 2.5 “Get Downs!”or you might prefer “Get to the Chopper!”.