Collateral Damage

Arnold Schwarzenegger plays Gordy Brewer, an experienced firefighter who has recently witnessed the death of his wife and son during an apparent terrorist act. A shadowed figure on video threatens further attacks on U.S. soil if the United States doesn’t leave Columbia.

This long delayed movie, originally slated for October 5, 2001, puts Schwarzenegger in a more realistic hero role. An everyman that many people can identify with, but he still doesn’t quite have the acting skills to sustain the entire running time though it is refreshing to see him leaning towards more dramatic roles like this one (the perfect genre for him if he every wants a shot at an Oscar nomination – his performance in 1999’s End of Days was very underrated).

In the acting department, Schwarzenegger gets some assistance from John Turturro playing a mechanic named Armstrong who eventually leads him to Felix, played by John Leguizamo. Turturro didn’t have near enough screen time to make an impact beyond providing essential progression in the story and Leguizamo tried to bring some comic relief, but mostly served the story as well. This reviewer cringed through his rap song performance which wasn’t funny, interesting or entertaining.

Director Andrew Davis again makes a credible work with some highlights such as an exterior sequence involving rapids. Davis uses voice over and parallel storylines to keep the story moving quickly. Great film work except for a minor mistake where you can see the edit a character takes items from a female FBI agent.

After frustrating results from government agents such as Brandt, played by Elias Koteas, Gordy sets off to exact his own style of justice after he gets some private intelligence from a former Columbia expert named Ted. Gordy predictably receives the “you can’t take the law into your own hands” lecture from law enforcement officials though they sympathize with lines like “I don’t know what you’re going through right now.”

Gordy contacts with law officials fuel his frustration and desire for justice. Gordy’s quip near beginning sets the tone and justifies his actions – the government is there, but their conflicting interests and agendas prevent quick action. Gordy’s justice doesn’t fall in the bloodthirsty, mindless revenge category and gives the antagonists the opportunity to change their minds when most people would eliminate them as soon as possible (though he does resort to a graphic, but understandable, fighting technique when he encounters some bad guys).

It’s interesting to watch a more realistic approach to the story with Schwarzenegger as a less than invincible protagonist (he wisely uses a belt to slide down an elevator shaft instead of just his hands as you’ve seen in other action movies) especially when getting physical with his newfound enemies, mainly Claudio, played by Cliff Curtis. His point of views and dialogue such as “The U.S. has forgetten the reality of war” make him an obvious antagonist, but the story does develop the reasoning behind his actions through his wife Selena, played by Francesca Neri. Selena and a small boy named Palo she cares for encounter Gordy seemingly by chance and make an obvious emotional connection given Gordy’s recent family loss. She explains the struggles and tragedies they have also experienced

Thankfully, a surprising plot twist during the second half of the story elevates the movies from mediocre results. This solid turn was very logical for the antagonists in regards to their plans for Gordy and the protagonists. This movie comes recommended with reservations (**1/2 out of four stars) and is rated R for violence and profanity.

Copyright © Michael Siebenaler

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