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Friday, February 8, 2002

Unacceptable losses

Movie: Collateral Damage

Posted on Fri, Feb 8, 2002 at 4:00 AM

**
Our Rating: 2.00

Want another reason to hate Osama bin Laden? Without Al-Queda's antics, this pea-brained and dull entry in the Arnold Schwarzenegger oeuvre would probably be opening to a national chorus of yawns, instead of vicarious war whoops of "Damn right!" Once again peddling his abs as a red-blooded Amurrrican action figure, Arnie plays Gordy Brewer, a California firefighter who loses both his wife and his annoying, lisping kid in a bombing masterminded by a mysterious Central American terrorist known as "El Lobo." The story that follows is a huge heap of El Toro, as Brewer (who, conveniently, used to work the bomb-and-arson beat), travels to Colombia in search of revenge -- cutting through bureaucratic red tape and shrugging off limp-wristed peace initiatives to conduct a one-man battle for justice.

What we have here is ironclad proof that no film should be green-lighted unless its star first proves that he can properly pronounce its title. Just when you've stopped laughing at the ridiculous sound of his on-screen buds referring to the Teutonic-tongued Schwarzenegger as "Gordy," "Congenital Defect" -- I'm sorry, "Collateral Damage" -- hits you upside the head with yet another thundering incongruity. John Turturro as a sleazy Canadian? Sure. Whatever. (Shouldn't he be the one named Gordy?)

Every unintended giggle is much appreciated, considering how surprisingly lifeless the movie is. It's hard to believe that director Andrew Davis was also responsible for "The Fugitive," one of the most gripping and credible action pictures of the late 20th century. His new film's dreary scenarios and numbing pace mark "Collateral Damage" as a subpar "Commando" retread, a low-octane outing that deserved to be just another chapter in Schwarzenegger's closely tracked slide into box-office irrelevance. But with patriotic payback all the rage these days, folks are less likely to notice or complain that the flick actually offers all the thrills of an insurance seminar.

If you nonetheless feel compelled to partake of Arnie's latest folly, my advice is to wait until it reaches the drafthouses. Don't let it damage too much of your own collateral.

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