Reviewed by GREG KING

Director: Andrew Davis

Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Cliff Curtis, Francesca Neri, Elias Koteas

In the wake of the events of September 11 and the US sanctioned war on terrorism, a number of films with terrorist themes, including Tim Allen’s Big Trouble and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s latest, became collateral damage as nervous studio executives pulled them from their release schedule. In the case of Schwarzenegger’s action thriller Collateral Damage it was something of a knee jerk reaction as this is certainly not one of big Arnie’s better efforts.

Schwarzenegger plays Gordon Brewer, an LA fireman, whose wife and young son are blown up in a terrorist bomb attack aimed at some Colombian diplomats visiting the city for high level talks. The attack is identified as the handiwork of a terrorist known as The Wolf (played with relish by New Zealand actor Cliff Curtis). When it seems as though the government’s anti-terrorist apparatus is not too interested in pursuing the terrorist, Brewer takes matters into his own hands and travels down to Colombia to seek revenge. Given the dangerous state of affairs in Colombia, in which drugs and violence are the two main industries, Brewer tentatively works his way to the Wolf’s lair, where events takes an unexpected turn when he saves the life of the terrorist’s wife (Francesca Neri) and her young son. But Brewer is also the unwitting bait leading rogue agent Brandt (Elias Koteas) to the Wolf.

Scripted by the writing team of Peter and David Griffiths, Collateral Damage is a second rate action vehicle that continues Schwarzenegger’s fall from box office favour. The plot is too heavily weighted down with lots of polemics about fighting terrorism with terror and criticising the government’s foreign policy, which we have seen in several films before.

And Schwarzenegger doesn’t deliver enough of his trademark one-liners or terminate enough enemies to satisfy his dwindling number of fans. Even he looks rather bored with the whole thing, and lacks the usual commanding presence of his earlier films; he desperately needs another hit to revive his flagging career (time for Terminator 3, perhaps?). He is unconvincing in those scenes that require him to display emotion over the loss of his family, and his delivery of dialogue is wooden. Curtis throws himself into his role and makes for an unremittingly nasty villain, and he just about walks away with the acting honours here.

The film is also directed in surprisingly pedestrian and unimaginative fashion by Andrew Davis, who made the superb action films like the big screen remake of The Fugitive and Under Siege. However, the climax is quite well staged and is exciting enough, if cliched and predictable, and briefly brings some energy to this rather tired, unoriginal and unpleasant exercise.



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