Arnold Schwarzenegger plays Gordy, a fireman whose wife and son are killed when a bomb goes off in a terrorist attack. As he becomes convinced that the government will not do anything to bring justice to the man responsible, a Colombian nicknamed “The Wolf,” Gordon decides to get justice for himself, by finding The Wolf and killing him.
The original release of this movie was delayed following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. It may still be too soon – in fact, it may never be possible to be as casual about fictional terrorism again. The movie is too close to reality to be able to enjoy it as pure entertainment and too far from reality to be able to get any feeling of satisfaction from it.
It is very formulaic. Arnold is told of the insurmountable obstacles. He surmounts them. Finally, he arrives in the secret lair of the bad guy. We see how bad a guy the bad guy really is, to make us feel even better about what lies ahead of him. Arnold is very clever and utterly unstoppable. Many explosions later, we get to what comes as close as possible to a happy ending.
The best parts of the movie are the brief appearances by John Turturro as a Canadian mechanic and John Leguizamo as a charming cocaine producer. The decision not to allow Gordon to carry a weapon provides for some moments of creativity in the plot. But Arnold is getting too old for this kind of thing, and, given our recent experiences, audiences may feel that they are, too.
Parents should know that the movie is very violent, with extreme peril. Many characters are killed, including a child. A character is killed by having a poisonous snake forced down his throat. A character’s ear is bitten off and spit out. The movie has strong language, and references to drug trade. The jitters of a character who appears to have had an overdose of cocaine are supposed to be funny.
The movie tries to make a connection between Gordon and The Wolf. Both are formerly gentle and loving men who became killers after losing children. The Wolf even asks Gordon how they are different. Gordon replies, “Because I am just going to kill you.” Families who see this movie should talk about the impulse for revenge and how to determine the best way to respond to terrorism. Were any of The Wolf’s claims legitimate, even if his tactics were not? Do all conflicts create “collateral damage?”