It's a nicely coincidental touch that Schwarzenegger plays a fireman named Gordie, and novel enough that he doesn't kill anybody with a gun or utter a hackneyed wisecrack, but the temptation was clearly too strong to unleash his übermensch tendencies. Though he takes a beating early on, watching his wife and son die in an embassy bombing carried out by Marxist, drug-running Colombian terrorists, it isn't long before he's striding through the jungles of Colombia as if on a Stairmaster.
Schwarzenegger appears to be taking acting lessons these days; if you can ignore the intrusively familiar accent, he has recently turned in some of his most credible work -- a trend that unfortunately correlates with a significant decline in the quality of the scripts he chooses. (Collateral Damage also sports some creaky visual effects for which there are no excuses, since Warner Bros. had four extra months to touch them up.) As the object of his pursuit, character actor Cliff Curtis commits the sin of being absolutely generic. We know he's evil, because he makes one of his men swallow a live poisonous snake and because he hangs pictures of Lenin on the walls. The oft-insufferable John Leguizamo, as comic relief, isn't terrible, and John Turturro steals a scene or two by impersonating Harry Dean Stanton.
Portraying the most believable character in the film is Crash's Elias Koteas, as a CIA agent making unsavory deals to try to protect the U.S. He's the one element of the movie that feels absolutely timely, embodying Dick Cheney's philosophy of recruiting unpleasant individuals who'll get the job done. Standing in stark contrast to that is the fictional White House's response to the first major act of foreign terror on American soil: "We must fight the temptation to make hasty policy decisions we might regret." Insert your own punch line here.
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