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
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
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