Evan's Eyes

Collateral Damage

The more I think about this movie, the more it feels like a surrealistic morality puppet show. Arnold plays AmericanMan, not a superhero, but the symbol of the common American who only desires a good job and loving family. Cliff Curtis is the Terrorist; a swarthy foreigner that hates America. Elias Koteas is the Spook, an amoral CIA agent who represents the heavy-handed bullying by the US Government of foreign countries. The Terrorist strikes at the Spook, but the bomb kills AmericanMan's wife and son, so Arnold single-handedly strikes off to hunt down the Terrorist and do what the Spook is prevented by political pressure from doing. Any good puppet show is simple, and this might have worked if it had just stuck to AmericanMan seeking revenge where the Spook and the Government could not. Unfortunately, there is a half-hearted attempt to give these functionaries deeper motivations and characterization, and it just gets muddled.

Part of the problem is that Arnold makes a great Terminator, but a lousy Everyman. He can play anger, but not grief. He's believable as a larger-than-life warrior or killing machine, but not as an ordinary person. As a symbolic morality puppet, he should stick to "dehumanization in the face of technology," not "Citizen caught in conflict not of his making." Maybe in another, much better movie, someone else could struggle in the face of realistic reasons for foreigners to hate America, trying to decide whether a particular act of revenge would truly be justice, or merely another act of violence in a long string of atrocities. This is not that movie. The only thing memorable about it that it feels like an uncomfortable manifestation of a cultural yearning to revise the WTC tragedy so the terrorists don't succeed. Cinema can help people work through the feelings from a culture-changing event, but this one does about as well as Chuck Norris's "Missing In Action" did in resolving Vietnam. For now, if you want to watch Arnold beat terrorists, rent "True Lies." If you just need a fix of Arnold killing things in a jungle, dust off "Predator." Don't take part in "Collateral Damage," which is probably good advice in general.

If you liked the movies below, you'll probably like this one (and visa versa):

  • Raw Deal
  • Act of Piracy
  • Air Force One
Overall Rating: 3 (where 1=Worthless, 10=Fabulous)

Eight-Facet Info Rating, rated on a scale of 0 (None) to 4 (Lots!)):

Humor: 0
Nudity: 0
Sexual Reference: 0
Sexual Activity: 0
Action: 3
Gore: 2
Violence: 3
Profanity: 1


© 2003 Evan M. Nichols