Collateral Damage (2002)

(In theaters, February 2002) There was a time, during the eighties, when Arnold Schwarzenegger could star in any action feature and draw crowds. Now, either the quality of his films has declined, or the audience has tired of the formula, because since 1995 (Eraser, End Of Days and now Collateral Damage), it doesn’t work quite as well. In fact, given the film’s simplistic pre-11/9/2001 approach to terrorism, it’s hard to see past the stupidity of the ending, the dullness of the setup and the ridiculous nature of the narrative. In another decade it might have been an enjoyable shoot-em-up, but not it border on the offensive. No wonder (North)Americans are so hated elsewhere in the world; if this passes for popular entertainment, we’re due for a serious re-evaluation of our priorities. Now, granted, Schwarzenegger is fine as a protagonist, even though he -as a “fireman”- sets up explosive devices with the skill of a Navy SEAL. (There are also a great pair of supporting performances by John “No one gives a damn about us Canadians” Turturro and John Leguizamo.) The problem lies elsewhere; the film attempts to be complex, but that intention is constantly undermined by silliness, awful coincidences and a pitiful climax. (Doesn’t it strike anyone that it might be a bad idea to cut metal natural-gas pipes with an axe, sparks and all?) In short, it’s too sombre to be fun, and too stupid to be clever. There isn’t much left.

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