CollateralDamageIs this the worst Arnold Schwarzenegger film ever? Is it even worse than Junior, Jingle All the Way, and Last Action Hero? Perhaps. Collateral Damage has the distinction of simultaneously insulting your intelligence and boring you to death. Mind you, this film was directed by Andrew Davis, who gave us the now-classic The Fugitive and Under Siege. Like all Schwarzenegger films, you don’t watch these films expecting a deep, insightful plot and nuanced, complex performances. You come into these films expecting Arnold to tear shit up and give out hilarious, heavily-accented one-liners. Is that too much to ask? Apparently it is.

Not that the story is important, but Arnold plays a fireman whose family is killed in a bomb explosion caused by a Colombian terrorist. So Arnold goes down to Colombia to destroy his ass. Again, you have to suspend your disbelief in films like these. However, I can still gripe. For example, Arnold as a firefighter I buy. However, I don’t buy a firefighter having the ability to create bombs Macgyver-style or the ability to kill a HIGHLY PROFESSIONAL black ops soldier in hand-to-hand combat. In other Arnold action pics, Arnold’s combat skills are justified because he’s a CIA operative, a barbarian, or a cyborg. Here, you have to suspend your disbelief more than you should have to. Arnold’s performance exacerbates the problem. He has never been known for his acting abilities, but Arnold’s past roles have at least spared him from having to emote a whole lot. Here, his character has just lost his family, which requires more from Arnold than he is capable of. To convey his character’s grief and anger, Arnold gives you ONE look throughout the entire film.

The rest of the cast has some great actors, but unfortunately they’re miscast or not well utilized. John Leguizamo, who must be the unluckiest extremely talented actors in Hollywood, is briefly seen as a drug runner for the bad guys. He performs his usual obnoxious, hyper persona thats been displayed in most of his other films. John Turturro shows up briefly as well, sporting a strange Canadian accent. Finally you have Elias Koteas, who is better known for the quirky roles he plays in indie films. Here, he is woefully miscast as an opportunist CIA agent. Every time I saw him, I was reminded of his sleazy role in the film Crash (not the one that won Best Picture…the David Cronenberg film).

One of Collateral Damage’s biggest problems is its style and look. Everything appears too polished and inauthentic from the opening fire scene to the jungles of South America. Much of the film may have been shot on location, but most of the time it felt like it was shot entirely on the Universal backlot. The filmmakers decided to resort to stereotypical portrayals of what South American villages and guerilla base camps looked like. What distracted me most, however, was the casting of the guerilla leader’s wife, who looks like a Hispanic version of Michelle Pfeiffer dressed in Banana Republic’s idea of what a freedom fighter should look like with a Hollywood hairstyle.

Ok, you figure at the very least the film will deliver on the action. Wrong. Commendable as it may be that Arnold refused to fire a gun in this film, the action sequences were either boring and unimaginative or completely absurd. Every action setup you see here has probably been lifted from some late-night cable action film. I got the feeling that due to Arnold’s advancing age, the actor or the filmmakers held back on involving Arnold in any elaborate action sequences. You don’t see Arnold going ballistic the way we’ve been accustomed to seeing him in past films.

If you miss seeing Arnold action star instead of Arnold the politician and you want to rent one of his films, Collateral Damage ain’t it. If you want to truly see him battling in the jungle in top form, check out Predator. Although the film was written and shot before 9/11, Collateral Damage was clearly meant to capitalize on the then recent 9/11 attacks and the threat of terrorism. However, instead of having Arnold battle Arabs, the studio decided to avoid any controversy and make the bad guys Colombian terrorists. Controversy obviously didn’t stop Fox from allowing Kiefer Sutherland to battle Arabs on 24 and look how awesome that show was. Unfortunately, this film had much more problems to overcome that ended up turning it into boring trash.

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