Eraser (1996)

The new Arnold Schwarzenegger movie is plotted like a series of old 
serials that have been combined and compressed, such that every ten 
minutes (or so) our hero must beat the clock to avoid another 
peril.  Sirens!  The cops are coming!  Shots fired!  The bad guys 
are coming!  Parachute is tangled!  The ground is coming!  This 
methodical (and intentional?) approach is actually a *good* thing, 
given the patchwork of implausibilities, improbabilities, and other 
ignored concerns contained in the script.  Arnie stars a steel-
jawed U.S. Marshall who works for the Witness Protection Program 
and who has been assigned to protect-- at any cost-- a young woman
(Vanessa Williams) who is blowing the whistle on her treasonous 
employer.  The chutes and ladders involve a political conspiracy, 
some very high-tech weaponry, and, heaven help us, another mole 
inside of a secretive government agency. 

Arnie's character is actually a variation on the Energizer Bunny.  
He gets stabbed, spiked, shot, crushed, blown-up, *and* dropped 
from a couple of different heights.  None of the many writers (seven, 
I hear) thought to worry about his seeming invulnerability, any 
more than they thought to worry about describing a weapon as one 
that fires projectiles at "just below the speed of light."  Help 
me.  Granted, such head-scratchers are a trademark of the action 
genre, but too much of ERASER is carried too far.  Or, rather, the
action scenes which are supposed to *distract* us from such logic
problems aren't carried far *enough*.  Director Charles Russell (THE
MASK) is new to the big-budget game and his set pieces are mostly 
modest in scope.  That is, with two exceptions.  Both a skydiving
sequence and a roomful of escaped alligators are pure thrills.  
Bring a tissue, though, as you mat get a nosebleed from going so 
far over the top.

Too erratic to be a "must see," ERASER is still recommendable for 
the smaller details.  When Arnie is disguised as a delivery person, 
for example, the back of his jumpsuit reads "Let's Party."  Or 
there's James Caan, as the boss gone bad, reacting to a throwing-
knife wound:  "I can't believe you nailed me with that cheap, mail-
order shit!"  Or, even better, the mobster who points to Arnie and 
asks:  "Who's the tree trunk?" Other notable cast members include 
Babe's dad James Cromwell in one scene, James Coburn as the agency 
head, and Robert Pastorelli as Arnie's colorful, eleventh-hour 
sidekick.  No one as dead-on as, say, either Tom Arnold or Charleton
Heston in TRUE LIES, but they're amusing enough.  (Nor is it every 
day that we get James Coburn stare down James Caan!) Finally, where
would Schwarzenegger be without a handful of one-liners?  The 
Terminator gets off a couple great ones that you're sure to hear
elsewhere.  There's also a classic exchange with two young kids, 
after Arnie drops from the sky into a junkyard.  Very funny.  
(Rated "R"/112 min.)

Grade: C+

Copyright 1996 by Michael J. Legeros

Originally posted to triangle.movies in MOVIE HELL: June 23, 1996

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