Collateral Damage

In Hollywood as in so many things, timing can be everything. The right move at the right time can enable success while a mistimed move can lead to disaster. After the horrific attacks of September 11th, many studios shelved films with content they considered to insensitive for a nation that was still recovering from the tragic events that changed our history. It has been said that time heals all wounds and with that in mind studious are starting to release films that have been shelved hoping that audiences are ready to embrace them.
The first of the delayed films is the Arnold Schwarzenegger adventure “Collateral Damage” The films centers on the life of Captain Gordon Brewer (Schwarzenegger), a fireman, loving and devoted husband and father, and solid citizen. That is until the day Gordy is caught in a violent explosion that leaves him wounded and his family dead. A Columbian terrorist know as “El Lobo” (Cliff Curtis), is waging a war on America in an effort to get CIA advisors out of his nation. Grieving and looking for justice Gordon is dismayed to learn that little will be done on his behalf as the State Department wishes to negotiate with the Columbian government and pursuing the terrorists would hamper the negotiations. Furthermore, Gordon realizes the police officer who he spoke with shortly before the explosion was the terrorist, and is enraged by the memory that the man smiled at him when Gordon informed him that he was only parking a short while to pick up his family.
Brewer learns that his family was considered “collateral damage”(unintended victims) by the terrorists and those loyal to their ideals and as such, they have little remorse over killing them. This sends Brewer into a rage, and he decides to take matters into his own hands, and kill the man who is responsible for the attack. Brewer gathers as much information as he can on his target and Columbia and ventures into the heart of terrorist controlled areas to exact his revenge. Aided by information from an ex-CIA agent and a mechanic who works for the terrorist organization (John Turturro), Gordon is soon within striking distance of his target when fate steps in. The wife and son of El Lobo arrive unexpectedly, and Brewer decides to save them and expose himself, rather than follow in the steps of the man he has sworn vengeance against.
Brewer soon becomes a captive and must find a way to escape his captors and stop the next wave of bombings while attempting to kill the man who caused his pain.
Schwarzeneger is good in the role as he is a sympathetic and semi-realistic character. There are no scenes of him gunning down large hordes of bad guys, as his character does not shoot a gun in the entire film. Brewer relies on his training as a fireman and his knowledge of incendiaries as well as his rage to complete his task and is not some super killing machine. Schwarzenegger is growing in his roles as he is learning to let the story propel his films rather than FX and explosions. While a less violent film may put off some of his loyal fans, I found the character development and story to be refreshing for an action film as it was not a film with cartoon characters and gratuitous violence. While there is action, it is not overly graphic compared to other films in the genre and is done in order to propel the story and explain the characters rather than for shock value. Loosely inspired by the western “Seven Men From Now” “Collateral Damage” ask viewers to look at both sides of a conflict and shows that there can often be a thin line between revenge and terrorism and how politics can drive people to take actions that they never would have thought themselves capable of. The film explains why El Lobo takes the actions that he has and offers the notion that Gordon and El Lobo are really not so different when both sides of the story are revealed. While Collateral does not have the most original story, and has some gaps in the story, it is generally a solid and interesting film that at time explores the wider range of issues behind terrorism and makes one ponder the view from the other side while not crossing the boundaries of being sympathetic towards those who would take such actions. In light of recent events, “Collateral Damage” is an informative and enjoyable film that shows that justice, honor, and grief can drive a person, but it is ultimately compassion and humanity that redeems them and separates us from them.

4 stars out of 5