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Andrew Davis
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Elias Koteas, Francesca Neri, Cliff Curtis, John Leguizamo, John Turturro
David Griffiths & Peter Griffiths

What Would You Do If You Lost Everything?
Box Office:
Budget $85 million.
Opening weekend $15.058 million on 2824 screens.
Domestic gross $40.048 million.
Rated R for violence and some language.

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
English, French, Spanish

Runtime: 109 min.
Price: $26.98
Release Date: 7/30/2002

• Audio Commentary With Director Andrew Davis
• “Behind the Scenes” Featurette
• “The Hero In a New Era” Featurette
• Additional Scenes
• Cast/Director Film Highlights
• Theatrical Trailer

Score soundtrack

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Collateral Damage (2002)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson

After the terrible events of September 11, 2001, filmmakers and studios became much more conscious of their products. This manifested itself in a number of ways. In a small change, Zoolander lost some brief shots of the World Trade Center via computer magic, and the trailer to Spider-Man also tossed a web gag that involved the towers.

Perhaps more significant were the delays that occurred due to the tragedy. A number of flicks were ready to hit screens - or close - but got moved back to avoid the potential appearance of crassness. John Woo’s Windtalkers was one of the longest delays, as it went from fall 2001 to summer 2002, but a number of others sat on the shelves as well.

Interestingly, it looks like all of the movies delayed due to 9/11 will perform poorly at the box office. As I write this, Windtalkers just opened last weekend. It received mediocre reviews and didn’t fare well financially; I’ll be shocked if it makes any money. Tim Allen’s erstwhile comeback vehicle Big Trouble stirred no financial pots, as it made a pathetic $7 million at US theaters.

Another potential comeback flick didn’t do much better. Yet another attempt by Arnold Schwarzenegger to regain his movie god status, Collateral Damage didn’t flop as badly as Big Trouble, but it failed to put Arnie back on top. It grabbed a very lackluster $40 million in the US, which didn’t even equal half the film’s budget.

Actually, Schwarzenegger wasn’t the only one involved with Damage who needed a comeback. Director Andrew Davis hit it big with 1993’s Oscar-nominated smash The Fugitive but he hasn’t regained that prominence over the last nine years. For his immediate follow-up, he made something called Steal Little, Steal Big. I wouldn’t be aware of its existence without IMDB. That site claims it made $6 million, but obviously it did so with no fanfare.

Much more attention greeted Davis’ next flick, 1996’s Chain Reaction. Unfortunately for Davis, that bland action film didn’t live up to expectations, as it made a mere $20 million. With Michael Douglas and Gwyneth Paltrow in lead roles, 1998’s A Perfect Murder had to do better than that, and it did, but the film’s $67 million gross remained miles away from the $183 million of The Fugitive. Even Davis’ first hit - 1992’s Steven Segal piece Under Siege - topped that.

As I noted, neither Davis nor Schwarzenegger earned a comeback with Collateral Damage, and we can’t blame the aftereffects of 9/11 for its lack of success. Instead, the movie flopped simply because it wasn’t very good. At best, it provided a serviceable action flick, but it never threatened to show the spark found in the best work from its main participants.

In Damage we meet the family of Gordy Brewer (Schwarzenegger). He works as a fireman, which worries wife Anne (Lindsay Frost); at the film’s start, she experiences a nightmare about his job. Nonetheless, along with young son Matt (Ethan Dampf), they seem happy together.

That soon changes. As Gordy goes to meet the other pair at an outdoor LA plaza, a bomb explodes. It kills mother and son instantly and leaves Gordy in a state of shock. Quickly the authorities learn that this terrorist action came from Colombian fighter “El Lobo”, a figure they believe to be Claudio Perrini (Cliff Curtis). Gordy actually spoke to Perrini seconds before the blast - the terrorist impersonated a police officer - and the fireman soon goes on a relentless mission of revenge.

Gordy decides to take the law into his own hands. He plots a way to get into Colombia and track down “El Lobo” on his own. To the surprise of CIA operative Peter Brandt - who heads covert affairs in the region - Gordy actually succeeds, and he eventually infiltrates the terrorist camp. Action - and even a few surprises - ensue as he continues his quest to avenge the deaths of his loved ones.

On the positive side of the coin, I will admit Collateral Damage tossed in some moments I didn’t expect. Maybe I’m just dense, but parts of its ending took me by surprise. I can’t say there’s anything Crying Game level here, but since this kind of flick usually runs on autopilot, the modest variations made it livelier.

Otherwise, Damage seemed like a very ordinary action film. Not a bad one, per se, but one that never breaks free of the mold. It started quite poorly. The portrait of the happy family seemed sugary and simplistic, and Schwarzenegger’s attempts at emotional complexity after the bombing appeared as weak as ever. Though he’s grown over the years, the man still cannot act; when he’s supposed to look anguished, he just seemed befuddled.

In addition, the film’s main conceit was highly questionable. The might of the US government can’t find El Lobo, but one bereaved fireman locates the terrorist and infiltrates his camp with relative ease? That concept appeared absurd, and the movie didn’t make it any more believable.

The movie did get moderately more interesting as it progressed, but it failed to become genuinely lively until its conclusion. Prior to that, it came across as a pretty generic action flick. Director Davis staged the various sequences fairly well; none rivaled the impact of the legendary train crash from The Fugitive, but they did the job.

Nonetheless, I felt pretty ambivalent toward Collateral Damage. While it had some decent moments, the movie simply seemed devoid of real tension or drama for the most part. I can’t call Damage a bad action flick, but it definitely appeared very mediocre.

Footnote: whose brilliant idea was it to name Schwarzenegger’s character “Gordy”? Few men on the planet look less like a “Gordy Brewer” than Schwarzenegger. Worst name ever!

The DVD Grades: Picture A- / Audio A- / Bonus B-

Collateral Damage appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. As one might expect from this sort of recent, big budget affair, the DVD provided a consistently positive picture.

Sharpness seemed solid. The movie always looked nicely crisp and detailed. I noticed no signs of softness or fuzziness through this distinct and well-defined presentation. Jagged edges and moiré effects offered no concerns, and I witnessed no signs of edge enhancement. In regard to print flaws, I saw a couple of marks and blemishes but these were small and pretty insignificant.

The palette of Damage seemed fairly subdued, but it came across accurately on the DVD. All tones appeared clear and natural, and I witnessed no signs of bleeding, noise or other concerns. Black levels looked deep and dense, while shadow detail was appropriately opaque but not overly thick. In the end, Collateral Damage gave us a very satisfying picture.

Also quite good was the film’s Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. The soundfield offered an active affair that used all five speakers to fine advantage. Music displayed solid stereo score and reinforcement from the rear, while effects cropped up from all around the viewer. Quieter sequences displayed a good sense of atmosphere, but the mix really came to life during action scenes. Those utilized the surrounds well and created a positive environment that made the movie more involving.

Audio quality appeared good. Dialogue sounded natural and warm, with no signs of edginess or problems related to intelligibility. Music was clear and vibrant and showed solid fidelity. Effects seemed accurate and distinct, and they also displayed no distortion. The whole set packed a good punch, with bass that appeared deep and tight. Ultimately, Collateral Damage offered a very typical soundtrack for this kind of film; it didn’t exceed expectations, but it lived up to them.

Though not packed to the gills, this DVD of Collateral Damage includes a reasonable roster of supplements. First we get a running, screen-specific audio commentary from director Andrew Davis. This track seems like a mixed bag. On the negative side, Davis starts slowly and takes a while to get really into the discussion. He also spends too much time on basic details like the names of actors, all of whom he described as “great”.

However, after a minor period of time, Davis does become more involved in the track, and it gets more interesting. Although the discussion generally remains technical in nature, he covers a fair amount of information and relates some good nuts and bolts details about the production. Davis also tosses in some story notes and comments from the set. Empty spaces pop up with moderate frequency. The track starts to lag again during its second half, but I still think it seems decent as a whole; it doesn’t offer a terribly engaging affair, but fans of the film should like it.

Additional Scenes provides a collection of six unused segments. Shown as one running piece, these last a total of seven minutes and 55 seconds. I didn’t like that presentation, as it makes it tough to access a particular favorite. Not that I much cared for any of these clips. They seemed rather boring to be honest. Most interesting was an alternate introduction to Selena and Mauro, mainly because Davis mentioned it in his commentary.

Next we get two featurettes. Behind the Scenes runs 14 minutes and 45 seconds and mixes many movie clips, some behind the scenes material, and interviews with actors Schwarzenegger, Francesca Neri and Cliff Curtis plus director Andrew Davis, executive producer Hawk Koch, and producers Steven Reuther and David Fosters. Not surprisingly, this program offers little more than a glorified trailer. It maximizes film snippets and seems very promotional in general, especially due to Schwarzenegger’s usual overly hyperbolic tone; everything and everyone’s “finn-DAS-dic”. We see a few decent shots from the set but we don’t learn much about the making of the flick.

The Hero In a New Era: Reflections on Collateral Damage runs eight minutes and 40 seconds and looks at the film within the post-9/11 landscape. It mixes movie clips and interviews with director Davis, Schwarzenegger as they discuss the film and what happened with its release. Actually, the latter component makes up only a minor part of the program; Davis quickly addresses the issue and then he and Arnie move on to more general thoughts about the movie. They discuss the message of the flick and its connection to current world events. While better than “Behind the Scenes”, it seems too bland to provide much value.

A few standard pieces round out Collateral Damage. In addition to the movie’s theatrical trailer - presented anamorphic 1.85:1 with Dolby Surround 2.0 audio - the Cast and Crew area provides filmographies for actors Arnold Schwarzenegger, John Leguizamo, and John Turturro plus director Davis. As usual on Warner Bros. DVDs, we see more names listed that don’t include additional information.

Did the aftershocks of 9/11 affect the box office prospects of Collateral Damage? I doubt it. The movie didn’t do well, but I think that occurred mainly because it wasn’t a very strong film. The flick had some good moments, but overall it seemed bland and generic. The DVD provided consistently solid picture and sound as well as a moderate roster of extras. Schwarzenegger fans might like to see their man back in action, but others should probably skip this lackluster movie.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.25 Stars Number of Votes: 16
3 3:
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