Collateral Damage

(2002) * R
109 min. Warner Brothers. Director: Andrew Davis. Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Elias Koteas, Cliff Curtis, John Leguizamo, John Turturro.

Collateral Damage, a surprisingly bad Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle, sets the bar another notch lower for the Austrian Oak. Once a reliable frontman for stupid but guaranteed-to-be-fun big-budget action flicks, Schwarzenegger at 54 seems to be poised to compete with Clint Eastwood for lower-octane thriller employment.

Arnie plays Gordon Brewer (how come he's never named Gerhard Thuswaldner? just asking...), a Washington, D.C. firefighter who turns into an avenging commando when his wife and tot are wiped out by a terrorist blast. Due to the obvious "hot button" details in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, Warner got volumes of free publicity in the interim between its original opening date in the fall of 2001 and the early, sparse days of 2002 (though obviously made well before 9/11, Damage manages to be offensive anyway by exploiting memories of other domestic bombings for this schlock). But even amid the slim pickings of the movie graveyard season, director Andrew Davis seems intent to prove that The Fugitive was some kind of miracle exception in a career of deadly duds. After skipping Under Siege 2, Davis is attached to Under Siege 3, which is a promising sign that Davis is going the way of Commando director Mark L. Lester.

Commando keeps coming to mind, as Collateral Damage plays like a de facto remake, though the former film's brainless action pornography is almost charming, certainly unpretentious, and eminently watchable in comparison to Davis's film, with its consistently preposterous plot matched with a stubbornly straight face. Recalling the spate of early-90s Die Hard ripoffs with "ordinary" guys taking action, one baddie scoffs, "He's just a fireman" (Davis's Under Siege had Steven Seagal intoning "I'm just a cook"). But like all those misguided films, Collateral Damage forgets to add any vulnerability or even develop a genuine sense of peril for Schwarzenegger. He simply devours each obstacle set in front of him like a champeen pie-eater, and waves for the next.

Making matters worse, Schwarzenegger finds himself pitted against terrorist villain Claudio 'The Wolf' Perrini (Cliff Curtis, looking for all the world like a slightly less cartoony version of Art Malik's all-purpose ethnic villain in Arnie's True Lies), and paired for much of the film's running time with pouty-lipped femme fatale Francesca Neri, who plays "The Wolf"'s wife. With Schwarzenegger in serious, threatening-to-cry mode and surrounded by colorless performers, Johns Leguizamo and Turturro provide a modicum of distraction in their respective ludicrous roles.

But no one is safe from the inept screenplay--the product of three presumably well-compensated "writers"--or Davis's hamhanded direction. His unmemorable action sequences here include a poorly-staged opening (the public bombing which seems to surgically take out only Schwarzenegger's family) and a waterfall leap which Davis rips off from his own The Fugitive. In justifying another disturbing, Hollywood-sanctioned revenge mission, Schwarzenegger's Brewer remarks, "If I don't do it, it seems no one else will," but that's a lousy excuse for both murder and the existence of a multi-million dollar mistake like this one.

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Bluray

Aspect ratios: 1.85:1

Number of discs: 1

Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1; Dolby Digital 5.1

Street date: 4/7/2009

Distributor: Warner Home Video

Collateral Damage gets a solid next-gen upgrade from Warner in an A/V transfer that handily bests its DVD equivalent. Color and detail are vibrant, black level is strong, and film grain retains the film's theatrical appearance. The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio options likewise effectively recreate the theatrical experience. Though this isn't a reference-quality disc, it certainly gets the job done nicely for a lower-tier catalog title.

In bonus features, there's a commentary by Andrew Davis that covers the basics about production and post-production (including the location shoot) and working with a star of Arnold's magnitude.

The HBO First Look special "The Making of Collateral Damage" (14:49, SD) features behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Davis, Cliff Curtis, producer Steven Reuther, Francesca Neri, and producer David Foster.

"The Hero in a New Era: Reflections on Collateral Damage" (8:43, SD) talks around the touchy timing of the post-9/11 release, in comments from Davis and Schwarzenegger.

Last up are "Additional Scenes" (7:55, SD) and the "Theatrical Trailer" (2:09, SD).

Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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