What would you do if you lost everything?
I think we're all in agreement that September 11th was a horrific and devastating event for everyone. Putting aside the loss of life and the horror inflicted upon the United States, September 11th was also devastating for another community on the other coast: Hollywood. In the wake of the tragedy came the postponement of numerous movies involving terrorist plots: the Chris Rock/Anthony Hopkins vehicle Bad Company, the Time Allen comedy Big Trouble, and the Arnold Schwarzenegger action thriller Collateral Damage. Months later, all three films were released to only minimal theatrical attendance and mediocre reviews. Collateral Damage, the biggest and most expensive of the three, was directed by Andrew Davis (The Fugitive, Chain Reaction) and featured Colombian terrorists plotting to blow up Los Angeles and Washington. Not surprisingly, the American public probably had their fill of this stuff by the time the movie opened on February 8th, 2002. Also starring John Leguizamo (Spawn), John Turturro (O Brother, Where Art Thou?), Francesca Neri (Hannibal), Elias Koteas (Novocaine), and Cliff Curtis (Blow), Collateral Damage explodes onto DVD care of Warner Home Entertainment.
Facts of the Case
Gordy Brewer (Schwarzenegger) seems to have the perfect life: an adventurous job as a firefighter, a loving wife, and a doting son. But Gordon is about to lose everything when a Colombian terrorist known to the FBI only as El Lobo ("The Wolf") attacks a public building where Gordon's wife and child are waiting for a ride home. Devastated by the loss and unable to receive any true help from the government authorities (including the reptilian Elias Koteas), Gordy takes the law into his own hands, leaving for Colombia to find the man who took away his wife and son. Along the way Gordy will uncover numerous plans of terrorism, including a plot to blow up the better half of Washington D.C.! With time running out and guerilla soldiers on his tail, Gordy must exact revenge upon his target and try to put a stop to the terrorist's malicious plans!
They say that there are only two certainties in life: death and taxes. I don't buy it. I feel that another certainty in life is this: Arnold Schwarzenegger will always be Arnold Schwarzenegger. No matter what movie you put Arnold in, he's always going to be the same lumbering, thick accented beefcake he's always been. While he plays different characters in each movie, we still see him as the same guy every time: a muscular fighting machine. Heck, even in the dismal Batman and Robin I wanted Arnold to kick ass and win even though he was the villain! So, let's recap—there are only three certainties in life: death, taxes, and Arnold!
Which brings me to Arnold's newest film, Collateral Damage. This is about as uncomplicated as it gets: Arnold is the good guy and his mission is to A.) blow stuff up and B.) avenge the death of his family. That's it, nothing more. While the film teeters on the periphery of some probing questions ("You see a peasant with a gun, you change the channel," observes the main terrorist villain, "but you never ask why a peasant needs a gun!"), it's usually confined to having Arnold run around saving people and killing foreigners with his bare knuckles. Arnold's character has all the complexities of a slinky—he's brave, steadfast, honorable, and chiseled. To delve any deeper into Gordy's motivation or personality would be futile—he is just another version of the Schwarzenegger acting machine.
The supporting cast is made up of some intriguing actors who aren't given many intriguing things to do. The two Johns (Leguizamo and Turturro) shuffle on and off screen as if they're putting in some kind of prerequisite cameo appearance. Leguizamo plays a rapper wannabe cocaine maker while Turturro pops up as a sleazy Canadian mechanic. Neither of these roles give the actors much to do which makes me question why they even bothered to be in the film. The rest of the actors are there, I think, to just make Arnold look good. Director Andrew Davis, who made the unbelievably great Harrison Ford flick The Fugitive, directs aptly even though it's pretty much all by-the-numbers stuff.
As an action movie, Collateral Damage delivers on its promise of damage: buildings get blown up, people get blown up, cars get blown up, foliage gets blown up…everything gets blown up. Gunfire and knives abound. People are thrown though glass. Motorcycles speed along as gas mains are burst and axes are thrown into people's chests while men leap off of cliffs while running away from soldiers shooting huge machine guns at…GASP…okay, you get the point. There's just a helluva a lot of action in this movie. As a thought provoking medium, Collateral Damage can't cut the butter. As an action movie complete with lots o' bombs, it gets an "A-" (it would have gotten an A+ had their been a slimy alien somewhere in the film).
Collateral Damage is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. On par with their recent releases, Warner's Collateral Damage is sharp and nearly reference quality. The transfer sports vivid colors, detailed black levels and natural flesh tones. Edge enhancement is absent as is pixelation and artifacting. I did notice a small amount of softness in one scene, though it won't be distracting to the viewing. There's not much else to say except that this is an overall great looking picture.
The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround in both English and French. Not surprisingly, Collateral Damage is a heavy effects laden action flick that features a multitude of directional effects. Explosions, gunfire, and bombastic music rocket around the viewer as if they were fighting right along side the Austrian Oak. Even the smaller sounds like ambient noise and jungle crickets come in loud and clear without any distortion or hiss in the mix. Much like the video presentation the soundtrack is top notch. Also included on this disc are English, French, and Spanish subtitles.
Collateral Damage sports a nice array of extra features, starting with a commentary track by director Andrew Davis. Davis is a well-spoken guy who tends to drone on and on about the production, the casting, the locations, the action, et cetera. While I think Davis is a talented filmmaker, he could be just a bit more personable and humorous when it comes to recording a DVD commentary track. Otherwise, this is a sufficient listen for fans of the film. An eight-minute reel of either extended or deleted scenes are included without any commentary by the director. Presented in non-anamorphic widescreen, most of the scenes wouldn't have added anything to the final cut had they been left in.
"Behind the Scenes" is a brief 14-minute quickie that doesn't add much to one's knowledge of the production of the film. Not surprisingly, this feature includes interviews with Arnold discussing the movie ("It's got action! It's got explosions! It's got ME!") and Andrew Davis quipping the requisite "It's a side of Arnold you've never seen before…" Uh, sure Andrew, whatever you say. "A Hero for a New Era" is a lot like the behind-the-scenes featurette except for that fact that A.) it focuses on terrorism and B.) it features Schwarzenegger and Davis talking about September 11th and the impact it had on the film (Davis thought that by February audiences would be ready to see the film without hindrance by our memory of the attacks…and he was wrong). It's interesting to hear some of the men's opinions of the attacks and what it meant to their film, but that's about it…
Finally, there are a few cast and director highlights and a theatrical trailer for the film.
If you're looking for a movie featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger running away from a fireball, you've come to the right place. In a post-9/11 world Collateral Damage just seems like a relic from a simpler time (even if that time is less than a year ago). It's a fine action movie, though I have the feeling it's the last of a dying breed in these troubled times. Warner's work on this disc is very good.
A Schwarzenegger movie a day helps keep the doctor away…
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
• Commentary by Director Andrew Davis
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