Rugged LA firefighter and family man Gordy Brewer (Arnold Schwarzenegger) has his life is turned upside down when his wife and son become the innocent victims of a terrorist bombing. Despite apologies, sympathy, and promises that justice will prevail, Gordy watches as his worst nightmare becomes yesterday's news. As the official investigation stalls, he learns just how deeply and ineffectually the US government has been dabbling in third-world affairs, and decides to seek justice alone. His journey takes him into the dangerous Colombian jungle in search of the bomber, Claudio ‘The Wolf’ (Cliff Curtis), and revenge.
Review by Richard Kuipers:
A pathetic US box-office take of $40 million in 11 weeks confirms that paying customers aren't buying this as the flag-waver it's being presented as. Either a brain-dead Rambo-style shoot-em up or a genuine attempt to explore the political complexities in places with grievances against the US would have been preferable to this half-baked jungle journey. The last decent political film made by a major studio was Missing in 1982 and as long as multinational conglomerates control every level of the filmmaking and distribution chain, nothing's going to change. To even mention Missing in the same space as Collateral Damage might seem absurd but this film references the same vital and important political realities that drove Costa-Gavras' film and does nothing with them except show the Colombian rebel leader (who was once a schoolteacher) forcing a live snake down the throat of a subordinate. Even as an actioner this lacks excitement as big Arnie and lacklustre director Andrew Davis trot out the same tired schtick they've both done before and much better. Slight plusses: John Turturro (always reliable as a weasel) and John Leguizamo (ditto) who add some spark briefly and Francesca Neri who gives her all as the mysterious woman helping Arnie save the world. Elsewhere there are long-winded villains who don't kill their enemies when they should, CIA spooks with the nerve to still be saying "you can't take the law into your own hands", a hero who can take countless blows to the head and body yet winces when a good woman tends his wounds and a final double twist whammy climax that's absurd, to put it mildly. You may count your admission fee as Collateral Damage if you file in for this one.
Review by Shannon J. Harvey:
I guess Warner Brothers thinks the whole September 11 terrorist attacks have blown over enough to release Collateral Damage - Arnie's latest shoot-em up. This is the film that was set for release in October last year but was postponed indefinitely because it reflected the real-life tragedy in America, and thus cut too close to the bone too soon. It hardly matters, for Collateral Damage looks like it's been postponed since 1985. It's still your typical big, dumb Arnie action movie where men are men, women are women, and Ah-nuld still cracks clunky one-liners like "Da difference is I'm only gonna kill you." The juiciest part, however, comes not when Arnie gets his revenge, but when ‘The Wolf’ (a close relation to The Jackal?) has a man's mouth forced open so a snake can crawl inside. Collateral Damage is the kind of film the studios refuse to preview for critics in fear of advance reviews damaging the film's all-important opening weekend. But it hardly matters what I or other critics says, for the film still delivers exactly what audiences have come to expect and depend on in an Arnie movies. There's lots of big guns, loud explosions, sweaty bad guys, fetching women to be rescued, and of course Ah-nuld's bulging muscles. Viewers take comfort in seeing such dependable repetition on the big screen, and Hollywood banks on it. But I wonder how long the former Mr Universe, Conan, Commando, Terminator, Kindergarten Cop, Last Action Hero and "Mr Freeze" (Batman and Robin) can keep doing these vacuous actioners. Especially when he says things like, "Hollywood has no moral code when it comes to violent films,'' to German magazine Hoerzu in January. What does that say about his moral code? It makes me wonder what the board of the Twin Towers fund – to which Arnold is a member - would think of Collateral Damage.
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COLLATERAL DAMAGE (M)
CAST: Arnold Schwarzenegger, John Leguizamo, Francesca Neri, Elias Koteas
PRODUCER: David Foster, Howard W. Koch Jr., Peter MacGregor-Scott, Steven Reuther
DIRECTOR: Andrew Davis
SCRIPT: Ronald Roose (story) David Griffiths, Peter Griffiths (story and screenplay)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Adam Greenberg
EDITOR: Dov Hoenig, Dennis Virkler
MUSIC: Graeme Revell
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Philip Rosenberg
RUNNING TIME: 109 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 2, 2002