Collateral Damage review

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Along with Spider-Man`s Twin Towers trailer, the most prominent Hollywood casualty of 11 September was Arnold Schwarzenegger's latest brain-bashing blockbuster. In it, Arnholt is cast as a firefighter (bad idea) whose wife and daughter are killed (another no-no) in a terrorist explosion (big mistake). No wonder its US release was pushed back by six months, although when it did finally arrive - in the wake of such gung-ho war flicks as Behind Enemy Lines and Black Hawk Down - it topped the box-office charts.

Perhaps Collateral Damage owes its unexpected kerching to the way it harks back to a less complicated time when there wasn't a problem Arnie couldn't solve with a spray of bullets or a bazooka. For while the big man doesn't pick up his trademark machine gun, he still blows the enemy into a million fragments with grenades and gets handy with an axe. Even Arnie's most partisan fans will surely feel a tinge of unease at the film's simplistic assertion that the best way to teach terrorists a lesson is to use their own methods against them.

But that's not the only thing that's simplistic in Andrew Davis' dated actioner. The villain - cocaine trafficker El Lobo (Cliff Curtis) - does all his dirty work himself, flitting from Los Angeles to South America to Washington like an evil Michael Palin, while fireman-turned-vigilante Gordy Brewer slips effortlessly into Colombia. Strange, considering he doesn't speak the language and looks like... well, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

As if mindful of the film's absurdity, Davis pairs his star with a brace of comic sidekicks (Johns Turturro and Leguizamo) who call him hilarious things like "jolly green", "sour kraut" and "Neanderthal white albino". But while such self-mocking asides are all well and good, no amount of wisecracks can disguise the fact that Arnold - now looking every one of his 54 years - wants the impossible: to be taken seriously as an action hero. You can't help feeling that when El Lobo sneers: "You Americans are so naive," he could have easily added: "And you Austrians aren't much better."

Sandwiched between Commando and Raw Deal, we would have accepted this by-the-numbers shoot-'em-up. But times change, and Arnie's looking in desperate need of T3.

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