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Collateral Damage

By all accounts, it looked like a turkey, given Schwarzenegger's atrocious record for the last few years (the ambling, over-atmospheric End of Days and the moronic, saccharine-sickly The Sixth Day) and the unfortunate timing (one of the cinematic casualties of September 11, delayed for six months and then tanking quietly).

But for pure film making merit (and not treating its audience like morons), it was actually a great movie.

Of course, as one of the crop of American political thrillers, it pushes very dubious morals. Being as intelligently scripted as it was, the villains get some scathingly accurate dialogue (such as the right of Colombians to fight for independence the same as the US). It also highlights the essential paradox of American society by portraying the ease with which their military/industrial complex can be engaged to protect the right people (ie the hero and the woman and child he's saved) while so many in the Western world flail for survival on our own. Of course, the politics are pushed aside on the weight of simplistic American values and the right to kick arse when it suits, as well as toeing the official line (and inciting America's right to kick arse when it suits) by building the entire premise on the notion that 'you don't negotiate with terrorists'

In this case, Arnie plays a surprisingly tender firefighter whose wife and son are killed in a terrorist bombing by a Colombian guerilla movement determined to drive the US out of their affairs. With the various US agencies' hands tied because of politics, he morphs into the Arnie we all know and love and goes to Colombia to (in the words of more than one character) take the law into his own hands.

What looks like a by numbers action film ensues, albeit with refreshing maturity and edgy, violent intrigue. But all is trounced by an inspired twist at the end and despite some requisite action film shtick, it's a great movie and more than you've been led to believe.

Whether it's the lines Schwarzenegger is given (in between stony-faced Arnie glares and flashy heroics) or the amazing support (the likes of Turturro and Leguizamo), he 'acts' better than he has in a long time, and the action, emotion and plot are all fuller than you think they'll be. A shame about the bad timing and pan reviews.

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