Collateral Damage is one of the more interesting entries in the Schwarzenegger canon. Not because it’s a good movie, but rather because it was the last original movie the Austrian Oak made before becoming governor. The only movie starring Arnold after this one is Terminator 3. It’s also the last movie of the Arnold flop-trilogy starting with End of Days and followed by The 6th Day. All of these movies were both critical and commercial flops, but Collateral Damage had something else working against it: 9/11. The movie, originally slated for a October 5th release, was pushed back to February and edited because certain elements were deemed inappropriate so short after the attacks. If only they released it a month earlier.
Collateral Damage is about a Colombian terrorist named Claudio “The Wolf” Perrini who performs an attack on U.S. soil. When his wife and son are killed during this attack, firefighter Gordon Brewster (Arnie) is devastated. Hoping justice will take it course, Gordon gets another blow when he learns that the government isn’t able to bring him to justice. So he sets out to Colombia himself to track down and kill The Wolf. This might be an easy task for Dutch in Predator, but Gordon is just a firefighter in a hostile foreign country.
Collateral Damage is a rather underwhelming movie with a pace that feels off. The structure of the movie is that of a video game. Certain segments feel like levels, especially the prison and cocaine plant scenes. Mostly because these two scenes also feature a small parts by relatively well-known actors: John Leguizamo and John Turturro. Both come and go, but should have had more screen time. What’s also funny is how this movie directly copies elements of better action movies: Arnold sliding down a hill in the jungle and ending up in the water is lifted from Predator, the element of him traveling to a foreign country to kill someone reminded me of Commando and Jean-Claude van Damme already did the firefighter schtick in Sudden Death. It just feels as if the movie has been made out of segments of several different movies with just Arnold happening to be in all of them.
Speaking of Arnold: he’s 54 years old, and while he still has the body, his face looks tired and worn in the majority of scenes. He’s not the unstoppable one-man-army he once played without breaking a sweat. While it suits the character on paper, it feels kinda off on film. You would expect him to go all Arnold, but that never really happens. This is also because there’s no room for humor; there are no snappy one-liners and while it would be weird to have a grieving father with a blood-lust for vengeance churning out goofy remarks, it’s something we have come to expect from a movie featuring Arnold. This role would have suited someone like Kevin Costner or Matt Damon much better.
That’s not to say Collateral Damage is a bad movie. Despite the uneven pace it’s never boring. John Turturro is a scene stealer in his short cameo and there’s a twist not everybody will see coming. Director Andrew Davis is known for genre classics like Under Siege, Above the Law and The Fugitive. He has crafted a decent action movie, but not one that will go down in history as a classic. In the Arnold pantheon it’s definitely one of his weaker movies.
One might conclude that part of the collateral damage of the 9/11 attacks is this movie. Oh the irony.