Collateral Damage (2001)

Genres - Action  |   Sub-Genres - Action Thriller  |   Release Date - Feb 8, 2002 (USA)  |   Run Time - 109 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Andrew Davis certainly knows how to craft an action sequence and there's one right up front during the opening credits of this Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle that indicates the director's talent for visual storytelling. It's a building fire from which an elderly victim must be rescued, and in post-terrorist attack America, the sight of firefighters risking their lives to save others is a moment that will either leave one choked up or cheering. Sadly, the film oddly deflates after that, reminding us all that Davis has followed up his nifty The Fugitive (1993) with well-mounted dross such as Steal Big, Steal Little (1995) and Chain Reaction (1996). This film was release-delayed in the wake of the Twin Towers attack, its firefighter hero and terrorist plot considered too painfully close to home, but it won't remind anybody of September 11th, it will make them think they've been transported back to the 1980s, when audiences liked the fact that Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, and Bruce Willis flexed their arms a lot more than their acting muscles. What is amazing about this revenge fantasy is how relevant it isn't; it's the retro, white man's retribution of Death Wish (1974), gussied up with a veneer of modern geopolitics, but it can't hide the fact that it's the same old Arnold, mealy-mouthed Teutonic accent fully intact, that unspooled in such so-bad-it's-good, high-octane entertainments as Commando (1985) and Raw Deal (1986). Except that it truly isn't the same world as it was in the escapist, saber-rattling '80s, and the whole spectacle just feels phonier, emptier, and dumber than ever before. For one thing, the lead's wife and child don't share the screen long enough to actually become characters, muting his sense of loss and serving only as cynical catalysts for carnage. Real life certainly did intrude on the potential success of Collateral Damage (2002), but in the opposite manner of what the filmmakers feared. Their movie leaves an audience feeling not more than it should, but a whole lot less.