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Collateral Damage

Collateral Damage (2002) finds Arnold Schwarzenegger in familiar territory, despite its focus on modern international terrorism. But even if it's routine, that doesn't mean the film is bad — especially if you're armed with popcorn and beer. Schwarzenegger stars as L.A. fireman Gordy Brewer, a man whose compassion for the people he risks his life to save is only exceeded by his devotion to his wife and young son. But when a terrorist bombing by Colombian guerrilla Claudio "The Wolf" (Cliff Curtis) kills his family, Gordy is inconsolable. He soon learns that the CIA has been operating a black-ops war against the Colombian rebels, but when the agency's hands are tied by Congress, Gordy decides to smuggle his way into Colombia and kill The Wolf by himself. Once there, he saves a woman, Selena (Francesca Neri), and her young son from a pair of street toughs, only to later infiltrate The Wolf's compound and learn that Selena is the terrorist's wife. He also discovers that she may make an unlikely ally, especially after she reveals another bombing is to take place in Washington, D.C. Collateral Damage was delayed for several months from its planned October 2001 theatrical release in the wake of Sept. 11, and while the movie does not deal specifically with an attack as horrific or devastating as 9/11, it's fair to say that Warner's decision was both prudent and tactful. After all, our hero witnesses his family's incendiary deaths, hears a foreign militant take credit for the bombing, and experiences an unbridled lust for retribution. Such would have made Collateral Damage far too touchy in 2001, although it now contains additional resonance not to be found in most popcorn-munchers. That said, it's still a paint-by-numbers action movie, with a plot that often defies plausibility and plenty of high-powered fireworks. Stripped down, it's B-movie material that would fit Chuck Norris or Steven Segal like a glove, improved here by Andrew Davis's quick pacing and Schwarzenegger's earnest, simple charm. Good turns also come from Cliff Curtis as the charismatic guerrilla leader and Francesca Neri as his sensitive wife — they're both solid actors who are consistently interesting. Agreeable support comes from John Turturro and John Leguizamo in smaller arcs — although it must be said that pairing either one of these off-key actors with straightforward Arnold for the bulk of the movie, rather than relegating them to minor roles, would have made the experience vastly more interesting. As for Arnold, there's no denying the fact that he's getting older. Now in his 50s, he wears his age well, but he's more a big bear of a man than the finely sculpted Austrian Adonis of those many summers ago. Collateral Damage gives him another opportunity to play the sort of action role that made him famous (hey, we thought a fireman was supposed to use his ax to save lives, not take them), but perhaps it's time for him to re-examine his bread-and-butter material. With luck and a bit of fine-tuning, creative casting could keep him on the A-list for some time yet — much like Clint Eastwood and Robert Redford, both of whom have successfully transitioned into mature film roles. Warner's DVD release of Collateral Damage features a strong anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) with an explosive Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. Features include a low-key, informative commentary from director Andrew Davis, a handful of deleted scenes on a single reel (8 min.), a "making-of" featurette (15 min.), cast/crew notes, and the additional featurette "A Hero in the New Era," in which Schwarzenegger and Davis discuss the film's post-9/11 impact (9 min.). Snap-case.

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