Political Film Society - Newsletter #125 - February 15, 2002

February 15, 2002


Collateral DamageCollateral Damage
, one of the films delayed by the events of September 11, is a Ramboesque movie about Colombian terrorism. Early in the story, Gordy Brewer (played by Arnold Schwartzenegger) stops to pick up his son and wife at a mall in Los Angeles that happens to house the Colombian Consulate. As he gets out of his van, he asks and receives permission from a uniformed police officer to park for a minute while collecting his family. In a few seconds, as he starts to enter the mall, an explosion occurs that kills several persons, including his wife and child but missing the intended targets—CIA counterterrorism agent Brandt (played by Elias Koteas), an Assistant Secretary of State, and the Colombian consul. The source of the blast is the police officer’s motorcycle, but he is nowhere to be found. Indeed, he is El Lobo (played by Cliff Curtis), the kingpin of a rebel faction that sells cocaine to gain funds to overthrow the Colombian government. When a sympathizer of the revolutionary group explains on television that the blast was in retaliation for the U.S. war on drugs in Colombia, expressing regret for the "collateral damage" to the innocent victims who were casualties, Brewer goes to the LA office of the sympathizer with a baseball bat in order to inflict, in his words, "collateral damage" to the office furniture, but he is subdued by security personnel, arrested by the LA Police, and ultimately released. Brewer then follows news stories, which indicate that nothing much will be done to avenge the "collateral damage," so he decides to become a Rambo—to travel to Colombia to kill El Lobo himself. After a difficult journey, he arrives in the guise of a replacement for a Canadian named Armstrong (played by John Turturo) who was hired to repair some equipment at El Lobo’s headquarters. After being greeted by Felix (played by John Leguizamo), Brewer uses his knowledge as a firefighter to set up an explosion that will destroy the cocaine factory and cause so much collateral damage that perhaps El Lobo will die.


However, El Lobo is elsewhere, orders his subordinates to seize and incarcerate Brewer. Soon, El Lobo’s spouse Selena (played by Francesca Neri) comes to care for Brewer and liberates him in advance of a CIA raid, confessing that she wants out of her life with El Lobo. When the CIA arrives, she reveals that El Lobo has already left for Washington, D.C., for his next demolition target; though she is unsure exactly where, she has seen a picture of a building. Accordingly, the CIA transports Brewer, Selena, and the boy she calls her son to the capitol. Selena views pictures of various buildings in Washington and finally identifies Union Station as the likely target. The dramatic ending consists of a decoy target, a doublecross, and the inevitable triumph of good over evil, with Brewer presumably adopting in the end an Elián Gonzales as a replacement son. Directed by Andrew Davis, Collateral Damage delivers the message that the American government will ultimately triumph over terrorism, especially if gutsy heroes come forward to help. Interestingly, politicians are portrayed as grandstanding, and the CIA is seen mired in bureaucratic and political correctness, yet all officials are seen as conscientiously pursuing an anti-terrorism war in their own complementary ways. MH

Ali, nominated for a Political Film Society award, also has been honored with Academy Award nominations for 2001.

Political Film Society members can still choose the best political films of 2001. Click on film titles on the Society’s website for the ballot (newsletter #124). Political Film Society members must return ballots by March 1, 2002. A meeting of the Board of Directors of the Political Film Society will convene at 8481 Allenwood Road, Los Angeles, on Saturday, March 2, 2002, at 7:00 p.m. to count ballots. All Political Film Society members are invited to the meeting.