Saturday, April 25, 2015
SCHWARZENEGGER SWEEPS: Collateral Damage (2002)
Collateral Damage” is probably better known for the unfortunate circumstances surrounding its release then anything to do with the actual movie. The movie, about a firefighter going after the terrorist responsible for the death of his family, was originally scheduled for October 5th. This normally wouldn’t be a problem except this was October of 2001. Following September 11th, Warner Brothers desperately, suddenly pushed the film’s release date back to February of the next year. Buried in the winter months with very little promotion, it became one of the few genuine flops of Arnold’s career. Over the years, some have wonder what would’ve happen if “Collateral Damage” had been released when originally intended. In the aftermath of that horrible tragedy, wouldn’t it have been cathartic to watch Arnold murder terrorists? Maybe that would have flown in the eighties but not in this millennia. Ultimately, it was too soon, the subject matter was too raw, too close to the heart. Separated a decade from its original release, how does “Collateral Damage” play now?
Gordon Brewster is a happily married firefighter with a young son. He’s an especially brave man, leaping across gaping holes in flaming buildings to rescue people. On a seemingly normal day, a bomb goes off at a hospital, killing a number of people, including Brewster’s wife and son. Consumed by grief and anger, and disappointed by the government’s response, Brewster decides to take the fight to those responsible. He heads to Columbia on the trail of La Lobo, the murderer. Once there, Brewster realizes his mission of revenge is more complex then assumed and not everyone is who they appear to be.
“Collateral Damage” is also not the low stakes popcorn action flick you might expect. The film deals seriously with the weight of revenge. While in Columbia, Brewster plants a bomb for Perrini, expecting to take him out. At that moment, he spies the villain’s wife and son walking down the street. Arnold dives to save them, afraid of repeating the act he’s avenging. Captured by the terrorists, the film brings up the uncomfortable fact that one man’s heroism is another man’s terrorism. The film’s villain considers himself a freedom fighter. In his quest for justice, Brewster comes dangerously close to becoming what he’s fighting. The movie isn’t afraid to show combat as a dirty, bloody business, two separate guerrilla organization brutally gunning each other down at one point. That a movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, an actor not exactly known for picking material with dramatic nuance, would addresses these issues in this way is surprising. And welcomed.
One of those surprises is the last act. The story returns to the US, Brewster on the trail of Perrini, his wife and kid in tow. It’s at this point that the worm turns, another bomb far closer then expected. Our hero figures it out before anyone else. The exact location of the bomb, and the way the movie reveals it, is effectively surprising. Loyalties are revealed.in a twist that seemed a little cheap at first but I got over it. In its’ final third, “Collateral Damage” turns into an excellent chase flick. There’s a tense chase down an elevator shaft, Arnold and the target kicking at each other among the ladders and cables. The motorcycle aided game of chicken is exciting and I like the way it plays out. The film ends up eating its cake and having it too. The story mostly plays out as a tense thriller but we still get to see Arnold have a face-off with the bad guy, executing him with brute force and home-grown strength.
John Leguizamo shows up for a thankless role as the villain’s mechanic. It’s a small role, with Leguizamo adding a little comic relief in a mostly fairly grim film. I also couldn’t help but notice Jane Lynch, in a bit part as an unlucky FBI agent.
“Collateral Damage” surprised me. For those you say Arnold is an actor who has never been willing to stretch himself, I suggest they watch this one. Not only is it a strong performance from him but a different sort of movie, a serious thriller with actual political themes on its mind. Yet it still gives Schwarzenegger faithfuls what they want: Namely, Arnold being a badass and taking out the trash. The decision to delay the film’s release was probably a smart one. The immediate aftermath of 9/11 was not the sensitive time to release a film like this, one that plays real world issues for both psychological studying and action movie thrills. In retrospect, it might be one of the hidden gems of Arnold’s long career. [7/10]
[THE SIGNS OF SCHWARZENEGGER: 3 outta 5]
[X] Performs Ridiculous Feat(s) of Strength
 Says, “I’ll be back.”
[X] Shows Off Buffness
[X] Unnecessarily Violent Opponent Dispatch
 Wields A Big Gun or Sword With One Arm