Collateral Damage

Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Elias Koteas, Francesca Neri, Cliff Curtis, John Leguizamo, John Turturro
Director: Andrew Davis
Writers: David Griffiths and Peter Griffiths, based on a story by Ronald Roose and David and Peter Griffiths

Things blow up; people die. By now, you probably know the story behind the release of Collateral Damage. This was one of the films put on hold after the September 11 terrorist attacks. Too many raw nerves back then. But, Arnold’s back now, just as big, just as strong. And he kicks terrorist butt. We’re stronger now; we can take it. But they’re Colombian guerrilla butts, not Islamic extremists. So, does that count? Who says you can’t enjoy a little payback when the ones getting their just desserts are the big bad guys! At least that’s how it works in the movie business if not real life.

Schwarzenegger plays Gordy Brewer, a heroic fireman and loving family man, whose wife and son are killed by a terrorist bombing credited to a Colombian drug lord and rebel named Claudio, a.k.a. El Lobo – the wolf. When Gordy hears that the State Department has decided to pull out its intelligence operatives and allow the Colombian government to negotiate with the drug-pushing guerrillas, he springs into action with his own plan to get even. He travels a long circuitous route to get safely into Colombia, deftly avoiding Colombian police and American agents who might stop him and guerillas who might take him hostage or just kill him on sight. Well, he manages to escape capture at least for a little while. The CIA, meanwhile, in the guise of firebrand agent Brandt Elias Koteas) thinks the State Department is made up of a bunch of idiots. He wants to use Gordy’s presence in the country as an excuse to wipe out the bandits any which way he can. Everyone’s looking for the man who just wants to kill the guy who killed his family. It’s really quite simple.

Along the way, Gordy meets a pretty woman and her son so he can be reminded of everything he lost. She turns up later as El Lobo’s wife and gives us a sob story about why and how Claudio became the demon he is today. Then there’s John Turturro as Armstrong, a chatty Canadian who uses his mechanic’s skills to keep the drug manufacturers in business. Gordy bums a river pass from him and manages to pose as Armstrong’s replacement, weaseling his way into an encampment where cocaine is being manufactured nonstop. There he meets John Leguizamo as Felix, a chatty rap-singing drug lord with a broken generator. Through explosions and over dead bodies, Gordy eventually makes his way to El Lobo.

But true to his terrorist’s word, El Lobo brings the terror home to us (again). Now back on US soil, Gordy, with the help of El Lobo’s wife Selena (Francesca Neri) must stop another terrorist attack that threatens to kill even more people than the first explosion.

Lotta says: The action sequences, particularly one with Gordy jumping down a gushing and dangerously steep waterfall, are exciting and immaculately put together. Schwarzenegger still has what it takes to keep the adrenaline pumping for us all. Thankfully, there’s no cutesy dialogue amid the turmoil that we need to contend with. It’s pretty lean and to the point. And we’re simply there to enjoy the ultimate payback, knowing that “collateral damage” is not a term we take lightly even if the terrorists do. Rated R for lots of violence and no doubt a particularly ugly scene involving a snake.

Reviewed 2/8/02