The Terminator in Colombia

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Fri Feb 8 12:17:58 MST 2002

"Collateral Damage"
There are many reasons to protest this Arnold Schwarzenegger flick about
firemen and terrorists. The best one is that it's a bad movie.
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By Andrew O'Hehir

Feb. 8, 2002 | Colombians and firefighters are all worked up about
"Collateral Damage," the new action thriller in which Arnold Schwarzenegger
saves the United States from South American terrorists with a fireman's ax
and the concerned furrows on his monumental forehead. There are also some
Catholic priests who are gravely concerned about it, for reasons that evade
me. But if we're going to have protests against this movie, I can think of
some other groups who might as well get a piece of the action: Canadians,
fans of John Turturro and John Leguizamo (whose talents are squandered
herein), both foreign policy hawks and doves and the screenwriters of the
"Phantasm" horror series.


"Collateral Damage" quickly plunges into boggy terrain from which it can
never extricate itself. A CIA agent with a sort of mangy, flea-bitten
appearance (Elias Koteas) tells Gordon (Schwarzenegger) that, in the
interests of peace negotiations in Colombia, the U.S. government won't go
after the guerrilla named El Lobo, who apparently carried out the bombing.
In the twinkling of an eye, of course, Gordon finds himself in a Colombian
prison with no passport or visa or weapons, right next to a Canadian sex
fiend (John Turturro) who is in the movie for no reason at all. Not only is
Turturro about the last person I would pick to play a Canadian -- and, yes,
I recognize that Canadians come in a glorious panoply of colors and ethnic
heritages -- but he has to utter the line: "Put a sock in it! I'm just a
wrench for hire!"

At least John Leguizamo seems to have a good time with his stereotypical
role as a backwoods cocaine lord who briefly takes Gordon under his wing,
quipping his way through a few scenes that feel like improvised departures
from the ponderous script by brothers David and Peter Griffiths. "Hey, your
English is pretty good for a German guy," he tells Gordon (who is passing
himself off as a German mechanic). When Gordon realizes the nature of his
business, Leguizamo is halfway apologetic: "Yeah, I know, I know, I know.
Just 'cause I'm brown and down don't mean I want to work for minimum wage."

Leguizamo's role isn't half as offensive as that of Cliff Curtis, who plays
the guerrilla leader Claudio, or "El Lobo," as a Che Guevara wannabe laden
with histrionic gestures and pseudo-revolutionary pronouncements.
"Americans are obsessed with false family values," he announces in his
Frito Bandito accent. "They have forgotten the reality of war." I'm all in
favor of colorblind casting, I guess, but Curtis is a New Zealander who
seems only to portray swarthy ethnic villains; he has played Arabs in "The
Majestic," "The Insider" and "Three Kings."


Louis Proyect
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