Collateral Damage

Rated: R
Runtime: 1 Hour and 55 Minutes

Reviewer: Dale
Grade: B

I love Arnold Schwarzenegger. I know that's not a popular thing to say anymore. But, you know what? I don't care. And I'm proud. Yes, dammit. I am proud to say that I love Arnold. I have for quite some time. Probably since the first time I saw him lay waste to an entire island in "Commando" or shoot the crap out of a liquid metal cyborg in "Terminator 2". Whatever the reason, I think Arnie is a swell guy. Hence, I took in this film at the theater on its second day of national release. And I had a swell time.

Granted, it could be a better movie. But first, let's get the plot out of the way. Arnold plays a guy named Gordy Brewer (yeah, I know, "Gordy"?) whose wife and son get killed within the first five minutes because of a bomb set in a public square by a wily terrorist known as "El Lobo". "El Lobo" is a Columbian terrorist upset at the involvement of the American government in matters in his homeland. Arnie is a fire fighter pissed at the death of his loved ones. So pissed, in fact, that when the American government does not do enough about it, Arnie takes it upon himself to head south of the border and begin blowing things up.

Now, let's not get ahead of ourselves. When I say that Arnie blows some things up, don't rub your hands together and start expecting another "Commando". Yes, I agree, that would be cool. But it would also be wrong. And this film has more important issues at its core. Issues that are all the more timely since the World Trade Centers incident. A lot of people have blasted this film (and unfairly, I may add) for coming out at all in the wake of those events. I am not one of them. We all, I think, to some degree, wanted to go to the homelands of the men responsible for those actions in September and visit some hurt upon them. But this film makes us see the sticky moral consequences behind such an action. It shows you all the angles and how messy such situations are. It even, and this was what really impressed me, made you understand where the terrorists are coming from. It had great supporting characters in John Turturro and John Leguizamo. And it has a very solid performance by Arnold, in a film that is much more socially aware and relevant, as well as a lot more intelligent, than most Arnie thrillers....until it devolves into plot twists and explosions, that is. But those are still fun, just in a different way.

But there are some problems with the film. First of all, not that many people really try to talk the Big Lug out of his plan to go to Columbia and search for "El Lobo". That might have been a bit more realistic. The first half does drag its heels a bit, and isn't nearly as interesting as it gets about halfway through, when things get tricky for Arnold. And the end sequence doesn't quite gel with the remainder of the film, though it is nice to see Arnie's character arc play out in those final scenes.

Arnie's character undergoes some psychological changes and some interesting developments here, and Arnold plays every facet of this man with surprising finesse. I have known for years that Arnold is a solid actor. Take away the pecs and accent and more people would notice that. And I see that people are still discounting this, judging by the other reviews I have seen for this movie. But I think he's a hell of an actor. Mel Gibson does roles like this in his sleep, but Arnie nails the hell out of this one. Take a look at his neglected performance in "End of Days" and you'll see more of what I mean. This guy is talented. Stop kicking him when he's down.

But, for all its flaws, I liked this movie, and I felt it was a responsible film, timely and with potency, about terrorism and how we react to it. Which is not to say that it is without its flaws (and the action could have been better) but it's still better than I expected, and better than most credit it. It's not perfect, but it is worth your time.