Collateral Damage Movie Review

The terrorists in "Collateral Damage" must have coordinated with the movie's screenwriters when they were planning their big bombing for the finale. Their getaway vehicle for the scene is a motorcycle, which, of course, seats two. But there are three people who'd have to get away, according to their plan. How did they know in advance that one of them would be left behind? How did they know they'd only need a motorbike?

That's one of the more abstract plot holes in this Arnold Schwarzenegger action dud about an average (6'2", 250 lbs., heavy Austrian accent) American firefighter out to avenge his wife and son after they're killed in a terrorist bombing. But don't worry, there are plenty more common-sense gaffes that are far more obvious, especially the plethora of laughable security breach blunders that betray the movie's pre-Sept. 11 origins.

Quickly realizing those self-serving wonks at the CIA, FBI and State Department aren't going to get the bomber -- a cocaine-running Colombian rebel called "The Wolf" -- Arnie engineers his own one-man mission to Central America to smoke the guy out and kill him. He hikes, rides beaten-up busses and bribes poor boat fishermen to get him into rebel territory. There he poses as a mechanic to infiltrate a bad-guy stronghold, "MacGuyvers" himself a couple do-it-yourself bombs and starts blowing stuff up.

When he gets his chance to assassinate The Wolf -- played by under-appreciated ethnic chameleon Cliff Curtis ("Training Day," "Blow," "Bringing Out the Dead," "Three Kings") -- Arnie tips his hand by warning an innocent, beautiful Colombian (Francesca Neri) and her young son away the impending explosion. Soon captured, he discovers this woman is The Wolf's wife, who thanks him for saving her life by helping him escape (although he's never even guarded, go figure) and get back to Washington, D.C. to bring warnings of another bombing in the works.

Predictable twists and lethargic action sequences follow as director Andrew Davis ("A Perfect Murder," "The Fugitive") beats back the film's meager potential as a think-powered thriller (lip service is paid to valid complaints against U.S. foreign policy) -- and even its potential as a strike-back flag-waver -- to keep it palpable to the lowest common denominator.

Perhaps in a world that hadn't been rocked into a terrorist hyper-awareness by the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks, "Collateral Damage" might have been just an underachieving action flick. But in the world we live in today -- a world that saw this very movie pulled from its original release date because of Sept. 11 -- its inescapable absurdities are tantamount to insulting the intelligence of anyone who hasn't been living under a rock for the last five months.


Collateral Damage Rating

" Grim "

Rating: R, Opened: Friday, February 8, 2002


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