Genre: Action Running Time: 1 hr. 48 min.
Release Date: February 8th, 2002 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Andrew Davis Actors: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Francesca Neri, Elias Koteas, Cliff Curtis, John Leguizamo, John Turturro, Raymond Cruz, Lindsay Frost
lthough Schwarzenegger has embodied a wide array of characters, there’s still something a little jarring about hearing his thick accent introduce a new everyman (even if the role is turned into a larger-than-life hero). Here, he plays a firefighter, which would certainly be a part more physically befitting of the Austrian bodybuilder, were it not for his regular difficulty in trying to fit in with visually average people. Melodrama and subtlety aren’t strong points for this type of action star.
Captain Gordy Brewer (Arnold Schwarzenegger) of the Los Angeles Fire Department plans to pick up his son (Ethan Dampf) from his wife (Lindsay Frost) at a café, to take him for a doctor’s appointment. But just as Gordy parks and heads toward the meeting, a bomb detonates at the adjacent Consulate General of Columbia building, killing numerous innocent victims, including a caravan of Colombian officials and CIA agents – along with his wife and child. The FBI takes over the case, informing Brewer that the Army of Colombian Liberation (ALC) – anti-democratic forces headed by terrorist Claudio “The Wolf” Perrini (Cliff Curtis) – is behind the attack.
When the headquarters of counterterrorism receives a video tape confirming the Wolf’s involvement, Brewer contacts CIA specialist Peter Brandt (Elias Koteas), the man leading the operation against the guerillas. But, after a reprimanding from a Senate Oversight Committee, Brandt is forced to stand down in favor of political negotiations. Taking matters into his own hands (and against all odds), Gordy miraculously sneaks into Valencia, Colombia to track down the Wolf himself – but finds that the locals, the military, the police, and even U.S. allies are all out to kill him or get him killed.
The pacing is fairly tight, putting the herculean avenger in the midst of a warzone just after the basic story is unveiled. The decent technical qualities of the film are largely thanks to director Andrew Davis (having previously helmed the actioners “Under Siege” and “The Fugitive”), who orchestrates competent adventure sequences (though an obvious homage to “Predator” demonstrates dated special effects) and plenty of fiery explosions. A couple of grossly unnecessary flashbacks (to remind audiences of moments that are simply not forgettable, or to add clips that weren’t originally shown) and a feeble attempt to give insight into the motives and flaws of each side of combat (as if humanizing Brewer’s opponents will create sympathy for the rebels) are the only major missteps in what could have been a pleasantly routine thriller.
Even though the terrorist/cocaine drug lord plot is far severer than the settings of Schwarzenegger’s typical projects, the muscly protagonist never really seems like he’s in danger. Luck, coincidences, and a series of helpful supporting characters (including John Turturro, John Leguizamo, and Francesca Neri [as an inopportune, semi-love interest]) make his maneuverings in extremely hostile territory surprisingly successful (The Wolf also has an easy time of traveling back and forth between countries). And though the subject matter is timely and relevant, the attention to action over sincerity dulls the potency of the themes – as any shoot-‘em-up Schwarzenegger movie probably should.
– Mike Massie