Collateral Damage (2002) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Your basic perfectly logical plot. Arnold Schwarzenegger plays Brewer, a Los Angeles firefighter who sees his wife and son killed by a terrorist bomb. The weaklings in the United States government back off when told that Columbia is negotiating with the terrorists, so Arnie has to take matters into his own hands. He is dropped alone, on foot, unarmed, into the Columbian jungle, where he proceeds to defeat both the entire drug cartel and Mother Nature, despite the fact that every single person in Columbia knows who he is and has a picture of him in their wallet. Of course, this is simple stuff for him after having defeated Satan two films ago.
Then he comes back to Washington and, like Davy Crockett or Mr Smith, he explains anti-terrorism in simple ways to them city-folks, and while spinnin' a few yarns, he defeats all the remaining terrorists, saves some cabinet officials, adopts some orphans, and shows that the physical laws of the universe are not as immutable as they might seem to us lesser mortals. At various times in the film he outruns a motorcycle and a fireball,  and survives a fall down the highest waterfall I've ever seen. And I've been to Victoria Falls. Of course Arnie uses Victoria Falls as a personal water park.


It isn't only natural law that's in for a good bitch-slappin' in this film, but logic as well. For example, when Arnie is held captive in Columbia, the renegade CIA chief engineers a rescue in which he raids the guerrilla camp from the air with enough firepower to blow up Belgium, even though he doesn't know exactly where Arnie is within the compound. Say what? How did they know they weren't killing Arn with their bombs? I guess they read the script and saw that he got away. Later on in the film there is a perfectly timed rendezvous between the two main terrorists, despite the fact that everything in their plot has gone wrong, and one of them had to keep running from Arnie in random directions. Their improbably timed convergence was like a scene out of Hudson Hawk.

I really wouldn't mind all that if it were handled in the old Arnold mold, in which Arnie battled against aliens or Evil Masters of the Universe, or himself. In a proper Arnold film, the big guy always slugs it out against impossible odds, and jokes his way through the whole thing. And I like those movies. But in this case, he's not fighting a fantasy invisible monster or some people who have reprogrammed his brain. He's battling against a very real terror, one that takes the lives of innocent people who are sometimes our own neighbors. Because the evil is real, we don't feel comfortable seeing it trivialized. If only terrorism were really this easy to defeat. Just drop Arnie in Pakistan and let him kick ass.

Just as important, the nature of the threat doesn't allow Arnold to do any jokes. The terrorist-inspired deaths of our wives and children are really not the right context for more of Arnie's famous one liners.

DVD info from Amazon

Commentary by Arnold Schwarzenegger and Director Andrew Davis
Theatrical trailer(s)
"The Hero in a New Era" (Exclusive interviews of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Director and Producers)
Behind the scenes HBO's First Look
Additional Scenes
Widescreen anamorphic format, 1.85:1

By the way, did you know that although all the other little kids in Austria wanted to play Mozart in the annual famous composers pageant, Arnie always said, "I'll be Bach"?

I guess you may know that this film was originally scheduled to be released right around the time of the WTC attacks, and it was delayed for many months because the studio felt that the time was inappropriate for the release of a fantasy-action version of anti-terrorist revenge. If this was a modestly budgeted film, I really believe that it would have languished in the studio's vaults forever, but they spent $80 million on this film, and they had to release it eventually, in order to recoup as much as possible.

That was a shame, in more ways than I care to contemplate.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: two and a half stars. Ebert 3/4, Berardinelli 2/4

  • General UK consensus: less than one star. BBC 2/5, Daily Mail 4/10, Daily Telegraph 2/10, Independent 2/10, The Guardian 2/10, The Observer 1/10, The Times 4/10, Evening Standard 1/10, The Sun 4/10, The Express 2/10, The Mirror 0/10

The People Vote ...

  • with their dollars: A loser. Made for $85 million, it grossed only $40 million in the USA.


IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C-. Watchable film with good production values, but far-fetched and with nothing extraordinary to recommend it. Much too serious a plot line for our Ah-nuld.

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