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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Collateral Damage
Collateral Damage
Warner Bros. // R // July 30, 2002
List Price: $26.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by D.K. Holm | posted July 5, 2002 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

I come to praise Cliff Curtis, not totally dispraise Collateral Damage. The New Zealand born Curtis is an amazing actor. The new Anthony Quinn, he has features that qualify him to play sheikhs, Columbia drug kingpins, Hispanic gang leaders, and God knows who else in the future.

Admit it. Wasn't your favorite scene in Training Day the one where Denzel Washington abandons Ethan Hawke to a kitchen full of criminals? Their leader was Cliff Curtis.

Also admit that the drug czar in Blow scared the pants off you. Cliff Curtis again.

He was a soldier in Deep Rising and a drug dealer in Bringing Out the Dead. He was Sheikh Fadlallah in The Insider, and Amir Abdullah in Three Kings. His earliest films were Once Were Warriors (where he played Bully), Rapa Nui (Short Ears), and The Piano (Mana).

And now he is the best thing in Collateral Damage, the latest attempt to resuscitate Arnold Schwarzenegger's flagging career. Since director Andrew Davis had already steered Chuck Norris, Steven Seagal, and Harrison Ford to big unusually intelligent hits, the thinking must have been that perhaps he could to the same for Arnold.

He didn't. Collateral Damage cost $85 million dollars and made $40 million. That's partially because it's not a very good movie, but partially because of the aftermath of 911, which led to its postponed release from October 5th, to February 2002.

An unofficial remake of Budd Boetticher's Seven Men from Now, and bearing a lot of similarity to the pulp fiction Executioner series (I think there was even a Mark Harmon film with this premise), Collateral Damage begins with fireman Gordy Brewer (Schwarzenegger) first rescuing a family, only to witness the next day the death of his own wife (Lindsay Frost) and son (Ethan Dampf) at the hands of a terrorist's bomb in Los Angeles. When officialdom, in the form of CIA agent Brandt (Elias Koteas) can't or won't move against the terrorist—one Claudio 'The Wolf' Perrini (Curtis)—Brewer takes the law into his own hands, sneaks into Colombia, harries the vaguely political revolutionaries, and gets in and out of scrapes. Along the way he meets Selena (Michelle Pfeiffer clone Francesca Neri) and her son Mauro (Tyler Posey), who happen to be the Wolf's wife and son. Eventually Brewer is caught by the Wolf and has a Proof of Life sojourn in his camp. Liberated by a raid, Brewer returns to America with Selena and son to try and suss out what the Wolf's next target is set to be, at which point a series of reversals "stun" the audience.

There are four reasons why this film finally doesn't work. First, Arnold is something of a wimp. Also, the texture of his marriage is too golden at the start. And director Andrew Davis brought a lot of reality to his earlier films, including The Fugitive, but this one lacks plausibility. And finally, the film obviously wants to give the terrorists some equal time, but has to back off from it in the wake of 911.

Schwarzenegger is suppose to be a caring father (he bathes nude with his son) and a good fireman. He is called upon to cry and look mad. Sadly, none of this sits well with the cyborgian Schwarzenegger. He doesn't slide easily into the sort of human role that a Harrison Ford could handle more easily. Also, he's a tad older, and his skin is made up to look waxy. With his hair slightly dyed to look red he looks like his own Madam Tusseau dummy.

Collateral Damage would, I think, have been more intriguing if the marriage shattered by the "terrorist" weren't so perfect. There would have been a human quality to the event if Gordy and wife had an argument about who takes the kid to see the doctor, left unresolved by the slaying. That would have given Gordy's quest a darker, deeper resonance, and his eventual alliance with another woman and son would have had a darker hue as well.

Davis might have done that in an earlier film, but here he just seems to forsake a psychological realism for just getting the job done and moving on. What distinguished his earlier films is that they were just so darned believable. Davis apparently has an interest in the subject matter here, but it doesn't come across in the finished product. It just seems like another lame, recent Schwarzenegger vehicle.

One of the things that Davis could have done is try to give equal time to the revolutionaries. He seems to have wanted to. During the few times that the revolutionaries (or terrorists, as they are called all through the film) when they aren't spouting the kind of dumb stuff that you might find in a Charles Bronson film, they actually seem to have a point about American intervention in foreign lands. But no, having said that, The Wolf has to pull out a snake and torture a failing comrade with it. At one point, The Wolf asks Brewer, "What's the difference between you and I?," and Brewer replies, "The difference is—I''m just going to kill you." But that is not strictly true. A lot of people in the path of Brewer's thirst for revenge die. If Davis has explored the dark side of his lead character and the film, it might have been one of the best Schwarzenegger movies ever, as befits a man with both the words "war" and "zen" in his name.


VIDEO: Warner Bros. disc of Collateral Damage is consistent with their recent releases. It looks as it did on the big screen, with something of a muted, if not conventional, visual style by Adam Greenberg.

SOUND: The Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround soundtrack is designed for just such movies, with lots of gunplay, chasing, and explosions. The score by the very busy Graeme Revell, who has done everything from Dead Calm to The Craft, gets a little lost in the noise. The film comes in English, and Quebec French, with English, French, and Spanish subtitles.

MENUS: A static, musical menu offers 32 chapter scene selection for this 109 minute movie.

PACKAGING: A Warner snap case bears a version of the poster, plus some stills. The label on the disc presents another likeness of Schwarzenegger.

EXTRAS: Medium supplements for this disc.

Audio Commentary Track Director Andrew Davis walks you through the film, but takes the stolid position that he had fun and everyone was neat to work with. Also, everyone was super careful about safety, and Arnold was a prince to work with. I didn't hear him go into too much detail about the release delay, or any changes he may have made in the film as a consequence.

Deleted Scenes The disc also comes with six deleted or alternate scenes coming to about eight minutes of footage. "Station Chief Brandt Outlines His Agenda" shows Elias Koteas arriving back in Colombia and ordering his men back out into the field. "Alternate Introduction to Selena and Mauro," is just that, and shows Gordy throwing a baseball in a carnival booth. "Alternate to the Snake Scene," is just a brief moment of dialogue and should have stayed in the picture. The scene, in which Curtis merely snaps a magazine in the maw of a reprobate, would have been much more in line of Davis's usually scrupulous realism, rather then the ludicrous scene he used. "The Night Before the Attack" shows the CIA backed military team preparing the raid, alternating the technical lingo of death with shots of children playing at their simple games. "Witnessing the Aftermath of the Camp Attack" shows Gordy appalled at the carnage wrought by the army. "Flight Back to Washington, D.C." shows Gordy, Selena, and Brandt on a military plane, with Gordy convincing Brandt that Selena can still help them, and with a suggestion that Selena is feeling closer to Gordy. The over all impact of these deleted scenes is to create more sympathy for the "terrorists." The transfer of this material is rough in both sound and visuals.

Featurette: The Making of Collateral Damage This 15 minute HBO-style promotional reel by Kelly Hefner walks the viewer through the reasons why they are suppose to like the film. A glorified trailer.

Making of Featurette: The Hero in a New Era: Reflections on Collateral Damage This is an interesting topic that isn't given its due. This seven minute documentary by Jeremy Lerner has Davis and Schwarzenegger discussing why the film was delayed and the nature of terrorism. Schwarzenegger comes across like a spin doctor, and Davis seems thoughtful but a little uncomfortable at the odd coincidence that delayed the release of his film.

Theatrical TrailerTypical plot summarizing trailer, though it seems to have a bit of on-essential footage not in the finished film.

Cast and Crew notes Typically brief credits for Schwarzenegger, cameo makes John Leguizamo, and John Turturro, as opposed to some of the people you might want to know about but don't know anything, such as Neri, Koteas, Lindsay Frost, and Curtis.

Final Thoughts: Collateral Damage is a kind of useless film that should fail to satisfy the fans of Schwarzenegger and the fans of Davis's usually intelligent approach to action films. Uneven supplements don't make you like it any better.

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