He doth bestride the world like a Colossus ' used to, anyway. Lately, Arnold Schwarzenegger has been leaking air, like a Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon with a pinprick hole in it. The promise/threat of Terminator 3 should keep the aging superstar aloft for a few more years. Meanwhile, we have to sit through Collateral Damage, a movie we wouldn't even be talking about were it not for Sept. 11. Featuring the muscular one as a firefighter who goes after the terrorist responsible for blowing up his wife and son, Collateral Damage was originally scheduled for release last fall. Cooler heads prevailed, apparently, but now the hotheads are coming after us with a vengeance. Not since Sylvester "Rambo" Stallone re-fought the Vietnam War for us has an American citizen so single-handedly taken international law into his own hands. Al-Qaida: Be afraid, be very afraid.
In what will have to pass as the kinder, gentler version, Schwarzenegger allegedly acts this time ' you know, emotes and stuff. Nevertheless, the movie's idea of a suitable grieving process consists of his Gordon Brewer sneaking into the Colombian jungle, flushing out a rebel leader known as the Wolf and eliminating him with extreme prejudice. Actually, it doesn't quite work out that way, because the Wolf, who's shown disciplining an underling by forcing the poor man to swallow a coral snake, is both crazy as a fox and mean as a junkyard dog. And so, before you know it, we're back in the States, warding off yet another threat to homeland security. Director Andrew Davis stages these set pieces with the machine-like anonymity he's brought to everything since The Fugitive. Only when Gordon bit off a rebel soldier's ear was I genuinely surprised. (Mike Tyson, eat your ...whatever out.)
The movie's politics are a simplistic muddle ' basically, Terrorists Bad, Arnold Good, CIA good/bad, depending on what the plot requires at the time. And you wind up wishing the scriptwriters, David and Peter Griffiths, had chucked the geopolitical context and gone for the gut. I recall only one memorable line, when John Turturro, as a fellow inmate, says to the imprisoned Gordon, "Stick a sock in it, Jolly Green." Speaking of which, does Arnold not seem literally smaller these days? And are his legendary pecs ' in a T-shirt, anyway ' not unlike my dearly departed grandma's, roaming amorphously across vast stretches of his upper body? It may be time for the exercise freak to throw in the towel. Throughout the '80s and well into the '90s, Schwarzenegger projected an image of American dominance to the rest of the world. But what was Sept. 11 if not the rest of the world replying, "Stick a sock in it, Jolly Green"?