..

COLLATERAL DAMAGE

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Elias Koteas, Francessca Neri, Cliff Curtis, John Leguizamo, John Turturro
Director: Andrew Davis
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: See Review
Length: 109 Minutes
Release Date: July 30, 2002

“It seems we’re both willing to kill for a cause. So what’s the difference between you and I?”

“The difference is…I’m just gonna kill you.”

Film ***

No one could have predicted the unthinkable tragedy of 9/11, including those in Hollywood. Who would’ve expected such a startling and tragic act of terrorism against America to occur, let alone a few weeks before a movie, which did nothing short of mirror the tragedy, was set to be released? Collateral Damage was one of a few films to get its release cut back from Hollywood’s conscious effort to not inflict anymore pain on America through toning down on selected subject matter. All in all, I think it was right to hold the release on this film, which opens with an explosion scene that really hits close to home, but to review the film in light of the tragedy isn’t very fair, since it was made months before the attack in New York. After all, it was at the request of the movie’s star, Arnold Schwarzenegger, that the movie’s release be temporarily postponed. If that isn’t a conscious act of a human being, I don’t know what is.

Collateral Damage is a professionally made, somewhat believable action thriller that is the perfect vehicle for Schwarzenegger, and I especially feel that it doesn’t hurt that his character’s name is Gordon, hehe. Ah-nuld plays L.A. firefighter Gordon Brewer, a dedicated worker who lives a happy life with is wife and young boy. Then his life is shattered when he witnesses his loved ones killed in a sudden downtown explosion which served as an attack on the CIA. The killing of Brewer’s wife and son is indeed considered “collateral damage”, which pretty much means “unintended casualties of war”. When realizing that he actually spoke to the disguised bomber, known as The Wolf (Cliff Curtis), just moments before the explosion, he becomes obsessed with pursuing him to the jungles of Columbia and extracting some much deserved revenge.

But the pursuit grows more complicated as Brewer learns of The Wolf’s true motivations for his actions, especially when he becomes acquainted with the bomber’s wife named Selena (Francessca Neri), who has a young son that bares something of a resemblance to the son that Brewer lost. He asks her to help him in stopping him, which she agrees to reluctantly as he pursues The Wolf from Columbia to the streets of Washington for a heart-stopping climax that carries a neatly tuned twist that completely grabbed me from left field.

The movie is expertly directed by Andrew Davis (The Fugitive, Chain Reaction) who is a top craftsman when it comes to capturing a visceral look of the contemporary settings in his movies. Like Chain Reaction which tracked its characters from Chicago to Washington and back, this film does a nifty job of trailing its hero from L.A. to South America to Washington with the help of some superb cinematography. A lot of the credit to the quality of this movie should go in Davis’ direction.

Collateral Damage is a top-notch thriller with a smooth pace and a grand level of entertainment quality. It doesn’t remind us of the tragedy of 9/11, but it provides a much exciting chase movie filled with the kind of tension and fun we come to expect from an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie. And needless to say, Ah-nuld gets the job done, once again!

Video ****

Yet another superb showing from the folks at WB, who have enjoyed a much successful year with their DVD transfers. The anamorphic picture quality is flawless from scene to scene with a striking sharpness and crispness that Warner is a pro at applying. Given the top-notch quality of the cinematography, the DVD presentation enhances this quality a hundred percent. Colors appear completely vibrant, as well, making Collateral Damage another high mark in the long list of WB perfected discs.

Audio ****

WB scores once again in this area with, dare I say, a big BOOM! The 5.1 audio mix served on Collateral Damage is by far one of Warner’s most excellent sounding tracks I’ve had the pleasure of listening to. The explosive roar of the movie reflects flawlessly in this audio transfer, which delivers strongly in all areas including action, explosions, dialogue, music score, etc. Without a doubt one of the most outstanding audio transfers of the year!

Features ***1/2

A nicely loaded package from WB. Included are two documentaries; a behind the scenes featurette and a brief 10 minute featurette titled “A Hero in a New Era”, which appropriately documents the film’s effect as a result of 9/11. Also featured is a running commentary from director Andrew Davis, additional scenes and a trailer, as well as some DVD-Rom content.

Summary:

Collateral Damage is a very well crafted action thriller that delivers exactly what you expect, thanks to both the charisma of Arnold Schwarzenegger and the top-notch directing from Andrew Davis.