106 – Collateral Damage

People often do things when under extreme stress that they wouldn’t normally do. If your spouse was killed by a drunk driver, you’d probably not rest easy until the jerk was caught – if then. But most of us would let the cops do their job, even though we anxiously await results and some sort of closure. But see, that’s the key. You’d wait there, a bundle of nerves. Arnold Schwarzenegger goes to Colombia.

Gordy (Ah-nuld) is a heroic fireman in Los Angeles. He’s late to pick up his wife and kid at the doctor’s office, and BLAM! A bomb blows up the whole area, killing his wife and son (there were dignitaries in the area that Colombia terrorists were targeting). The CIA knows who the bad guy is – he calls himself El Lobo – but the catch is that no one’s ever seen his face. But Gordy has. He saw him seconds before the bomb went off (although of course, he didn’t know then) and therefore becomes the only American to be able to recognize the Numero Uno Bad Guy.

Figuring that El Lobo’s hitailed it back to Columbia, Gordy follows. He sneaks in as only Ah-nuld can, through Panama. This marks Schwarzenegger’s wandered south of the border, following Commando (1985) and Predator (1987). He’s a man on a mission: to find and dispense of the man who murdered his family.

This is certainly one of those movies you wouldn’t believe if it were shown as a true story, and that’s partly because some of the stuff Gordy does lies somewhere beyond the realm of credulity. But that’s somewhat beside the point. You don’t watch this movie as if it were a documentary, you watch it as if it were a cartoon, which it surely is. Heck, even the acting’s cartoonish.

Getting into Columbia isn’t easy, but of course Our Man has a plan, and even when things go awry, Our Man somehow triumphs. Because he can do that, you see. It just wouldn’t do to have him be anything but a superhero. If you or I or anyone else tried half the stuff Gordy did, we’d be caught, gutted, and disemboweled before the first commercial on NYPD Blue. But not Gordy, who’s tougher than steel.

But one thing worth mentioning is that this movie wouldn’t work with just any beefy actor. The fact that that audience buys into the whole “Arnold-as-Superman” thing is a testament to his appeal; if you didn’t believe Gordy could do it, you’d have no movie to watch.

This movie was held back from release following the September 11 attacks, and some of the parallels are eerie. There’s an attack in the movie on American soil. How would we have reacted to that scene prior to September 11? Probably wouldn’t have raised an eyebrow over it. Now, however, the scene is viewed in a whole new context. That scene – and the subsequent violence – are now lent a distinct air of reality and believability, further buttressed by the inimitable secure personality of the giant Schwarzenegger.

Arnold returns to his tried-and-true Predator-Commando-Terminator roots here, and he pulls it off quite well, considering he’s now over 50. A twentysomething couldn’t do the stuff he’s doing in this movie. Okay, so maybe his double’s doing a lot of it, but still – the man’s still in great shape, doing what he loves to do and what we love to do – kick major bad-guy ass.

I’m giving this movie relatively high marks because I like this kind of movie – a fast, violent action movie. If this isn’t your cup of tea, you might want to scale the rating down a notch or two.

Collateral Damage: 6.5

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