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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

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1.  Steve Rhodes review follows movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review
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Review by Steve Rhodes
3½ stars out of 4

You've just been erased. -John Kruger

Sometimes a critic falls in love with a show that is getting mixed reviews. For me one of these is ERASER. I went to it expecting an enjoyable Schwarzenegger action flick, but nothing special. Once safely ensconced in my seat I was blown away by the movie.

Thanks to an excellent script by Tony Puryear and Walon Green, the movie is the funniest action picture this year. Director Chuck Russell (THE MASK) is able to sustain a high energy pace that keeps the action moving and the audience's adrenaline pumping. Too bad he was not the director of the too often tedious MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE. Actually there is a center part of ERASER that repeats part of MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE, but with much more energetic timing.

First, a suggestion. Go see this movie while it is still at the biggest screen with the most powerful subwoofers. The explosions and the gun fire, especially the electromagnetic guns, produce a sound that has the theater rocking. Second, the setup for the plot is the usual implausible one of the military, the intelligence community, the Mafia, big business, et. al. all involved in a vast conspiracy. This time it is to buy and sell a new line of ultra powerful weapons. Ignore this conspiracy ridiculousness. Go with the flow.

John Kruger (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is a Federal Marshall that is part of a special group in the witness protection program. He erases witnesses by making them appear to have died. He then hides them in a place that only he knows about. James Caan plays Robert Deguerin, Kruger's mentor, and James Coburn plays Beller, who is the head of the program.

Things get out of hand when Lee Cullen (Vanessa Williams) reports to the FBI about the aforementioned plot to sell weapons. She is hunted down and almost killed until Kruger saves her. The picture is about the cat and mouse game as the bad guys try to kill her and get her computer disk before she can testify. The slight mystery is which guys are the good ones and which the bad. The ending of ERASER is great. Moreover, as soon as you think it is over, it gets better and better.

The script is intelligent and at the same time so funny in parts that I was constantly rolling with laugher. As the lead evil character puts it when asked about the morality of selling horrible weapons to the wrong side, "Wars come and go. The only difference is who gets rich and who gets dead. I prefer rich." When Kruger asks Father Rodriguez whether it is safe to venture out, Father Rodriguez says, "The streets are clear. The police have returned to the safety of their donut shops."

The acting is quite good. Arnold is in fine form and hilarious - as good as in TRUE LIES, which I loved. Caan is given a one dimensional character but manages to make him interesting. Coburn barely has a part - not enough to even comment on. The best acting in the show is by Vanessa Williams. In the first scene she is so tense, you feel like you are going to have a heart attack. Later in the show, her vulnerability develops into strength and bravery. A complex role that she is up to. All of this notwithstanding, this is Arnold's picture, and he is great - strong and funny.

There are many terrific minor actors in the show, but the best are the ones from the local mob-cum-union. We have Robert Pastorelli as Johnny C. plus someone named Tony Two Toes and another named Mikey. They give invaluable help to Kruger and wonderful mirth to the audience. When Tony Two Toes first sees Kruger, he asks, "Who's the tree trunk?" When Tony thinks some Russians may be involved, he exclaims, "Those dirty Commies!" But, Mikey quickly corrects him with, "They're not commies any more. They're a federation of independent liberated states." When someone gets in his way, Tony Two Toes threatens them with, "Nobody screws with the union."

The stunts are spectacular throughout, but my favorites are the scene when Cullen's house is attacked and the scene on the airplane. Each is choreographed with perfect timing and fluid motions. The script too is highly imaginative from the guns used to the solutions Kruger comes up with on the airplane. Finally, the film conclusively answers the question, what do you say when you murder an alligator.

ERASER runs a fast 1:45 thanks to excellent editing by Michael Tronick. The film is rated R. There is no sex or nudity, and the language is mild. Since this is an action flick, there is violence with lots of people being killed and some blood, but overall, it is much less gory than typical R rated action films - more like a shoot-'em-up Western. It is fine for teenagers, but not too much younger. I saw some Dads taking their 8-10 year olds into the film which I think is too immature an age for this much violence. I give the film a strong recommendation. You will like the actions and the stunts and will probably be rolling over with laughter too. I give the film *** 1/2.

Copyright 1996 Steve Rhodes

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