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movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Eraser

Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Vanessa Williams
Director: Charles Russell
Rated: R
RunTime: 115 Minutes
Release Date: June 1996
Genre: Action

*Also starring: James Caan, James Coburn, Robert Pastorelli, James Cromwell, Danny Nucci, Andy Romano, Nick Chinlund, Gerry Becker

Review by Andrew Hicks
3 stars out of 4

We remember the toned-down Arnold Schwarzenegger of the early 90's, a kinder, gentler man who wouldn't blow people away with machine guns anymore. In KINDERGARTEN COP the most violent he got was when he beat up on a man who beat his kid ("You hit de kid, I hit you"). In TERMINATOR 2 he was forbidden to kill anyone so he blew their knee caps off instead. In THE LAST ACTION HERO he murdered his lines as usual but no people. The crowd-pleasing TRUE LIES was violent but it was a parody of the kind of movies Schwarzenegger starred in during the 80's. It took him six years to return to a movie with a real old-fashioned, automatic weapon body count.

And that movie is ERASER, where Arnold plays Federal Marshal John Kruger, witness protector extraordinaire. His charge this time around is a defense contractor employee (Vanessa Williams) who has agreed to testify against her company's misappropriations of funds and weapons. ("I didn't know treason was in the corporate strategy," she announces to her boss.) All the evidence she needs is on a CD-ROM disc she carries with her through the duration of the movie. At first, she doesn't think she needs to go into hiding, but a late-night assault on her home convinces her to change her identity.

Luckily, Arnold is right there, disguised as a buff delivery boy, to save her from the bad guys, who have a new weapon that shoots electromagnetic pulses at "just under the speed of light." Of course, we can still see the pulses flying toward their targets, so I'd estimate Vanessa's "just under" comment to mean about 185,000 miles per second under the speed of light. But authenticity isn't important in a movie like this as long as we can see the pulses knocking their victims back through the wall.

Arnold brings Vanessa to a Chinatown apartment, where she burns all her forms of identification. "There goes all that I am," she laments, to his stone-faced reply, "What you are is in here [gesturing to the heart region] and they can't take that from you." I was worried at that point that the sense of humor Arnold has always had in his movies had completely gone to hell, but those fears were shattered a half-hour later when he shot an alligator in the zoo and quipped, "You're luggage!" (I didn't say Arnold had a _good_ sense of humor, just a sense of humor.)

"I suppose we won't see each other again," Vanessa says. "Not if all goes well," Arnold responds. And of course it doesn't. Arnold and Vanessa are reunited at the zoo not twenty minutes later, after he shoots the alligator and she shoots a corrupt marshal because he doesn't know the "secret handshake." We know by this point that most of the marshals are corrupt, including Arnold's boss (James Caan), who is in the process of selling millions of dollars in weapons to the Russian mafia, to "usher in a new era of world terrorism." Caan makes a good psycho villian and we all know Arnold makes a good wisecracking action hero.

After narrowly escaping death by Caan, Arnold jumps out of a plane, pulling a GOLDENEYE (and breaking the laws of physics) by free-falling faster than his parachute pack and opening it just in time, in just one of ERASER's blockbuster action sequences. Another one comes shortly thereafter, as Arnold and Vanessa break into her company to view the evidence on her magic disc. It's reminiscent of another 1996 summer movie, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE, only much more inventive and entertaining.

The same could be said of the entire movie in comparison to MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE. That movie only had three action sequences amid a sea of unintelligible plot, whereas ERASER has almost wall-to-wall action and a plot Arnold himself could follow. It also has some genuinely funny scenes, unlike the straight-faced seriousness of Tom Cruise's action foray. After Arnold falls out of the sky during the parachute scene and lands atop a junkyard car, he gets up, brushes himself off and asks, "Where am I?" A little girl, in awe, replies, "Earth. Welcome."

While we're comparing ERASER with the other action films currently in release, I should point out that it's as good as or better than THE ROCK. Like that movie it mixes light-hearted humor with brutal violence. And Vanessa Williams is certainly a better sidekick to look at than the ape-like Nicholas Cage. Williams even does a decent job of acting, although all that's required of her is nervousness at the beginning, distress in the middle and loving admiration of Arnold at the end. It doesn't have an incredible amount of originality and its attempts at seriousness are met with as many laughs as the comic relief scenes, but ERASER is a constantly entertaining no-brainer that provides two hours of escape from the oppressive heat and boredom of summer.

Copyright 1996 Andrew Hicks

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