Everyone remembers Arnold Schwarzenegger in the heyday of the late 80's and early 90's when only the body counts were bigger than the stars. Muscle/Action men were the icons of the era, but alas the reign of the action gods must come to an end. Stallone has tried to make comedies (failed) and also turned his hand into more 'acting' characters to varied success (Copland showed that he can act if given the right role), Bruce Willis has turned his back to 'violent' films sans September 11th. Steven Segal - once Aikido master kicking arse, now a chunky pretentious old environmentalist. Van Damme - just say 'NO'! Drug problems have destroyed what remnants of a career he had. Only Schwarzenegger stood Olympian-like above the others, wasting bad guys and cracking one liners with a sly wink at the camera..............but alas he is now fighting his worse enemy ever. No, not hunting aliens from other worlds, not cult leaders, not even shape-shifting robots from the future. He is battling something that he cannot win; old age and a new bread of heroes.
This brings us to Collateral Damage, the latest offering from Andrew Davis, director of The Fugitive. Withdrawn after September 11th due to the nature of its story, it finally gets released. Schwarzenegger plays a fireman, Gordon Brewer, a man with a loving wife and a devoted father to his son. One day his perfect world is torn apart as his family is accidentally blown to pieces before his very eyes during a terrorist bombing. The terrorist behind the attack is known only as The Wolf (Cliff Curtis). CIA agent Brandt (Elias Koteas) has been hunting The Wolf but cannot pursue him due to political and budgetary restraints. Fortunately for him, the one man who has seen the Wolf and can identify him is Brewer who has no such constraints on his actions. Unfortunately, Brewer has his own agenda, go to Colombia and take revenge by killing the Wolf.
The basic premise is fine, revenge is the basis for many good action films. Unfortunately Collateral Damage is too muddled, flying between action and slow lulls. Schwarzenegger is helped along by cameos by John Turturro and John Leguizamo who help to lift the film during their brief stints on screen, but even they cannot keep the film from failing. The whole affair is very predictable and slow, as the writers try to make Brewer into more than a man simply out to kill someone. The other weak link is the Wolf. He is just not evil enough and lacks the key villain attribute, which is for the audience to hate him. It doesn't help that the writers have tried to justify his cause by giving him a background similar to Brewers and that his wife and son pop up midway through the film. The whole film has a TV movie feel to it.
Schwarzenegger's performance is muted and tries to be more gritty, which has plagued his previous two post heart surgery outings, End Of Days and The Sixth Day. Gone is the Schwarzenegger of old, the Schwarzenegger that everyone loves; big, brash and larger than life. Dutch Schultz, Conan, John Matrix or even the Terminator would have had a field day if their wife and son had been accidentally killed, but Brewer doesn't even shoot a gun once. He's a bit of a wimp in comparison really, and it gets embarrassing to see a 55 year old getting pummelled and even more embarrassing to see poor CGI stunts complete with superimposed Schwarzenegger.
Overall Collateral Damage is a another lame offering from Schwarzenegger who seems to be losing the fight against age and trying to be a new breed of current 'hero'. Lets hope that some of his other projects (Terminator 3, True Lies 2 and Conan 3 are all in the pipe line) give us back the Arnold that we love to watch, bigger than life, facing insurmountable odds and kicking arse the old fashioned way. Personally speaking I am a huge fan of the old Arnold (no pun intended) and will be cranking up the DVD player with Conan The Barbarian, The Terminator and Predator to remove the bad taste of Collateral Damage and to reminisce about the good old days, especially of high adventure.
'Between the years when the oceans drank Atlantis and the rise of the sons of Arius, there was an age undreamed of, when shining kingdoms lay spread across the world. Hither came Conan, the Cimmerian, sword in hand. It is I, his chronicler, who knows well his saga. Now let me tell you of the days of high adventure.......' - opening to Conan.
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