Release Date: June 21st, 1996 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Charles Russell Actors: Arnold Schwarzenegger, James Caan, Vanessa Williams, James Coburn, Robert Pastorelli, James Cromwell, Danny Nucci, Joe Viterelli, Roma Maffia
ou’ve just been erased.” And as that macho retort escapes Schwarzenegger’s lips, another brainless action flick is born. But despite its sacrifice of intelligence and sensibility for detonative panache, “Eraser” nevertheless has its enthusiastic highlights, which will certainly entertain fans of high-octane adventure (it’s even an Academy Award-nominated project). Arnold once again plays Arnold, but it doesn’t get tiresome to see him repetitively kick ass, especially since he does it so well.
John Kruger (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is a U.S. Marshal, trained for the witness protection program, here specializing in erasing people’s identities by faking deaths so that they can start fresh after testifying against dangerous criminals. And he’s the best guy in the game. So when Lee Cullen (Vanessa Williams) duplicates incriminating files against her defense company for the FBI, revealing the black market sales of hi-tech weaponry, she quickly and unexpectedly finds herself under Kruger’s watchful eye. But as other witnesses start getting killed off, Kruger realizes that a crafty inside job will result in both of their demises if he doesn’t figure out what exactly is on the disk and if he can’t deliver foolproof evidence to his superiors. Framed for treason and on the run with his charge, he must outsmart and intercept the corrupt officials orchestrating the conspiracy plot before he too becomes erased.
Defying the boundaries of realism – by walking a fine line between amusing and obnoxious – always seems easy for Arnold, who merely has to step onscreen with his larger-than-life appearance and aura. Sporting the same demeanor and physicality as his most famous character, the Terminator, Schwarzenegger’s Kruger is a persona that can go twice as fast and play twice as rough as the opposition. Even in the stickiest of situations, he never takes much of a hit (and if he does, it definitely doesn’t faze him); admittedly, there’s something undeniably appealing about a hero who never flinches and never falters. Here, he’s also able to fend off CG alligators and catch a much-needed falling parachute midair whilst skydiving (one of the most over-the-top stunts of the ‘90s).
Brandishing futuristic rail guns (like those found in the video game “Halo”) and other state-of-the-art goodies, the villains are well equipped to conduct a small-scale war – but are instead outwitted and outmatched by the lone specialist. That juggernaut (in both silhouette and cinematic presence) is complemented by supporting performances from James Caan as a fellow marshal (complete with toothy rictus, which bodes ill for his shaky loyalties); Andy Romano as the Canadian Undersecretary of Defense, who has “bad guy” written all over him; Robert Pastorelli as a former mob witness turned useful accomplice; and the unmistakable Joe Viterelli as Tony Two-Toes, the informant’s cousin. Many of these players provide comic relief and snappy one-liners, as Schwarzenegger’s actioners work better with lighter dialogue and regular humor. And further embellishing the title role is Alan Silvestri’s pulsing music, which narrates Kruger’s routines for arming himself in a fashion comparable to the montages of “Batman” (1989) – featuring the Dark Knight dramatically clasping his belt buckle and donning his cape.
In “Eraser,” vigilantism proves to be a major asset, as combating enemies with the law on their side pales in comparison to doing things the old-fashioned, illegal, and far more satisfying way. It’s also the most morally conscionable method, as corruption routinely abounds. Muddying up the judicial system are technicalities that ensure culprits with connections can elude prosecution – creating a dire need for justice at the end of firearms and superbly explosive finales.
– Mike Massie