Rated R - Running Time: 1:55 - Released 2/8/02

Collateral Damage is the film that was originally scheduled for release last September, but was posponed because of the Sept. 11 attack, since its subject matter deals with a major terrorist bombing of large U.S. cities. I assumed at the time that the producers feared the subject would hit too close to home in the wake of the attack. Now I realize the reason it was held back is because it would have been a classic case of adding insult to injury: the injury of the terrorism would be compounded by this insult to our collective intelligence.

Written by erstwhile editor Ronald Roose and brothers David & Peter Griffiths, none of whom have enough writing experience to mention, and directed by Andrew Davis, this film trivializes the events of 9/11 by portraying all parties—terrorists, Americans, perpetrators, victims—as complete idiots. (Not to mention audience members.) Rule of thumb: if Arnold Schwarzenegger is the smartest person in a movie, you've got problems. But it doesn't deal with cave-dwelling Muslims from the Middle East, it concerns Colombian guerillas. After a terrorist bombing at the Colombian consulate kills his wife and young son, L.A. fireman Gordon Brewer (Schwarzenegger) swears revenge. While the CIA-Latin American unit, headed by Agent Peter Brandt (Elias Koteas), wants to lead an attack against the perpetrators, the U.S. government decides to let the incident pass, so as not to endanger peace talks with the Colombian government. So Brewer naturally decides to do what we all would do in such a situation: go to Colombia and take out the guerrilas single-handedly. Traveling to the hostile country and entering several heavily restricted, guerilla-controlled areas using only his MacGyver-like ingenuity and his huge, well-oiled muscles, he infiltrates the compound of "The Wolf"—the perpetrator of the L.A. bombing, played by Cliff Curtis—where he learns of a plan for a much bigger attack.

Heading up the supporting cast of this intelligence-challenged blow-up fest is pouty-lipped Italian actress Francesca Neri (who looks just about as out of place among terrorists as Mary McDonnell did among the Indians in Dances With Wolves). Neri plays The Wolf's wife (I guess she would be "The Bitch"), who at first seems to be friendly toward Brewer, but whose allegiance is suddenly and stupidly shifted. Also present are John Leguizamo as a drug lord with aspirations of being a rap star, and John Turturro as a Canadian mechanic who prides himself on committing crude public sex acts. But the star of the show is of course Schwarzenegger, who somehow, inexplicably, keeps signing on to these patently stupid action movies, consistently perpetuating his reputation for playing burly, booby action figures with intuition bordering on clairvoyance and single-mindedly heroic sensibilities. Please don't keep paying to get into movies like this, folks. You'll just encourage him.

Copyright 2002 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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