Director William Friedkin was on some kind of high at this time because this movie just makes absolutely no sense no matter how you look at it. His main problem is that or it appears that way is his self indulgence for the gay culture and the way it's portrayed in the film which is what probably enraged gays when the film was released. If the film was released now, I still think it would be controversial but not as badly as it was back in 1980. At the very least, it would have a shot to being successful, but it just isn't both artistically or visually. Another problem is that Friedkin was just too close to this material and to say he fell in love with it would be an understatement. If someone else had polished his draft of the script, it wouldn't have been as convoluted as it is because it has no idea of how to deal with the material in a simpler way. Like Pacino's character, the film's itself doesn't know what it wants to be. Is it a mystery? Is it a suspense thriller? Is it a personal attack on gays or particularly gay men in general? It boggles the mind to even think about it, regardless all these elements put together in way that Friedkin has doesn't make any sense. The film's tone, atmosphere and settings look awkward and very uncomfortable to sit through at times to the point you'd want to take a long shower after you've finished watching it.
What is Pacino doing in this film? He just looks really out of it in this one and to be honest, he probably saw something interesting on paper that looked like a good idea, but on film, it just doesn't work. You don't know what his character is, what he likes, who he loves? What kind of guy he really is when he's not wearing a badge? There are lot of unanswered questions. Pacino is completely wasted, so is everyone else associated with this film from Paul Sorvino to Karen Allen. What are they doing in this film? They deserved better than playing cardboard characters. It's understandable that the MPAA cut this film to shreds, but how much of a difference would it make if the director's cut that Friedkin talks about would make if it was shown today? Maybe a little one, the question would really be if that version of the film would be able to save this mess? Perhaps one day we'll be able to see what Friedkin had originally intended for this film. For now we'll have to live with this curious disaster that at this point has very little redeeming qualities and an ending that just leaves you hanging. It's a wonder why Pacino has not worked with Friedkin ever since and you can't blame him for this disaster.
Director Andrew Davis (The Fugitive, Under Siege) doesn't go for the all out glamorous look of big explosions (there are a few in the film, but kept on a realistic level) and all out blood and guts violence. Arnold Schwarzenegger plays Gordon Brewer, a firefighter and family man, who would do anything to get the job done or protect his family from all dangers. Then one fateful day, all of his very existence is taken away by a single bomb on a Colombian embassy, executed by a shadowy terrorist known as "El Lobo aka.The Wolf" played by Cliff Curtis. Inspite of the FBI's effortsto locate "The Wolf", Peter Brandt (Elias Koteas) a sinister, but well intentioned FBI agent knows that something has to be done along with Brewer. As his wife and child are considered "Collateral Damage", Brewer heads to Colombia to seek out and hopefully bring "The Wolf" to justice. There are alot of perfectly excuted sequences pulled off with perfection by Davis. Schwarzenegger finally gets to play a character alot more sympathetic than his usual hard edged ones and he is very good here. Elias Koteas, Harry Lennix, Francesca Neri, and Miguel Sandoval offer good support here. Very restrained and more human. Adam Greenberg's cinematography is excellent as always and features an interested, but too restrained score by Graeme Revell.
The world maybe different now, but Collateral Damage is one of those films that comes to show us that anything can happen at anytime and it's the price we pay for risking everything we believe in.