Retro Review: Collateral Damage

Arnold Schwarzenegger teams with “Fugitive” director Andrew Davis to tell the story of a fire-fighter who loses his whole life to a terrorist.

Schwarzenegger plays Gordon Brewer, an LA firefighter who loves his job, wife and young son. One day, Brewer pulls up to pick his son up from the doctor’s office. Brewer sees his young son and wife at a coffee shop across the street. He waves to them and within seconds a bomb explodes in front of the building where the coffee shop is. The explosion levels the coffee shop, automobiles around the building and causes a car to slam into Brewer as he runs towards his family.

When Brewer comes to his family is dead and a terrorist conspiracy intensifies. Brewer slowly watches his government drop the ball in seeking out the terrorists responsible for Brewer’s loss. Brewer, however, does have one thing going for him. He saw the face of the man who is responsible and it’s up to him to bring justice to his loved ones.

“Collateral Damage” could have been one of Arnie’s best projects if the events of September 11th hadn’t gripped us all so much. Director Andrew Davis delivers a perfectly executed film that is probably flawed due to other departments of the film’s conception. We were all exposed to the early promotions for “Collateral” before September 11th and it was advertised as highly intensified action film. The final result is more drama-oriented than action.

The explosion in the coffee-shop isn’t as powerful as I would have imagined from the trailers. It does the job but it seems to be vastly toned down. The beginning has to be so intense to support Arnie being so desperate in hunting down the terrorist. I understand that he lost his family but the audience needs to connect with this man more to follow his desperate struggle to hunt down his family’s killer.

Since the film was transformed into a drama it was left to the supporting players performances to make the film more intense and to be able to get through the film’s “Colombian” middle. We have cameos by John Leguizamo and John Turturro who play characters who deliver tiny bits of dialogue which are clever and good.

But the main focus lies on the shoulders of actor Elias Koteas, who plays a CIA operative working for the American government in Colombia. Koteas is a B-actor at best and I found his character a waste of screen time.

What was probably needed in that roll was a Tommy Lee Jones-type actor who could have brought more depth to the CIA perspective.

Koteas would have been ok if the film’s focus was on the action instead of the drama. They really left his performance out in the cold.

The end action sequence and the prison break-out sequence are cool. There are some cool Arnie one-liners (which I so miss in movies) and the film does have a twist finale but the film has more isolated good-points than flowing ones.

I liked the attempt that Collateral Damage tries to put forth. I do think that we need an action film that does send a hero like Arnie after terrorists but I am afraid this isn’t the picture.

This film suffers extremely from when it’s being released. It also suffers from the editing which turns the film into a drama. I so wanted to see Arnie back on top as an action hero. I really miss cool intense action films.

(3 out of 5)

So Says the Soothsayer.

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