Rating: 3.5 on 4 / Buy the DVD here
Tagline: He will erase your past to protect your future.
Directed by Chuck Russell
Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Vanessa Williams, James Cromwell, James Coburn and James Caan
THE PLAN: U.S. Marshall / Witness Protection agent John Kruger (Schwarzenegger) hides an employee (Vanessa Williams) of a high-tech weapons dealer after she discovers her employer is involved with criminal activity. What Kruger doesn’t know is that the high-tech weapons business is connected all the way to the top, including the people he works for. Now he’s out to protect his witness and take down the bad guys two giant aluminum-rail canons at a time.
THE KILL: In the mid-to-late ‘90s, Hollywood’s image of the preferred action movie changed from muscle-bound heroes shooting first and asking questions later to special effects heavy adventure flicks along the likes of INDEPENDENCE DAY and MEN IN BLACK (sorry Will Smith, I partly blame you for this). But in 1996 there was one film that was bold enough to reach into the action pockets of the ‘80s while still utilizing the special effects of the ‘90s. That film? ERASER. And while other action giants like Stallone and Van Damme were beginning to fall off the wayside of big-budget action flicks, Schwarzenegger busted out on the scene with this in attempts to keep his action status alive for just a few years longer. And you know what? It worked!
While ERASER is far from a perfect action movie, it gets major points in the attempt to not sell-out with effects and go the PG-13 route (which it could have easily done if it cut out a few choice words and Arnold killed less people). But no, THE BLOB and A NIGHTMARE ON ELM ST. PART 3 director Chuck Russell ensured that the film was going to be action to the core and that’s exactly what we got. For fans of Arnold, ERASER is pretty much his last big action flick—and what an action flick to end on! The guy hangs onto the side of an exploding airplane, gets into a gunfight with an alligator, fires two of the biggest f*cking guns (at the same time) that you’ve ever seen, beats the shit out of James Caan, and gets to blow up so much shit that it’s only slightly ridiculous! Talk about a fun time at the movies!
Seriously, I saw this f*cker twice in the theater that summer and it was as epic and as amazing as it is rewatching it today. Arnold’s John Kruger character is such a professional badass that you can’t help but like the guy and cheer him on when he finds out his own people want his witness dead. Makes you wonder why Williams was even assigned to The Eraser if she was this expendable, but if that were so… there wouldn’t be a movie here! It’s also cool to see Arnold have a strong female lead (which isn’t par for an Arnold movie) that could have almost been a love interest if it weren’t for the fact that nobody would ever buy it if Arnold were to ‘fall in love’ on screen.
The flick starts off with some of the coolest black-pajama ass-kicking that you’ll ever see and it never lets up from there. From an exploding nail-mine to a make-shift house bomb, from getting into a firefight with an oncoming airplane (after jumping out of it in the middle of a gunfight) to getting in a shootout by the alligator tank at the Zoo, to picking up two of the most high-tech cannons EVER and shooting fools two at a time…. Hot damn, the action doesn’t get any better than this! Not only that, but the action has a high body count to boot! People are dropping dead left and right (hell, a few are chomped in half by hungry gators), giving the film an impressive body count and serious disregard for life (which is refreshing to see in a flick like this). The thing with ERASER is, it looks and feels like a PG-13 flick: it’s not gritty or dark or have the appearance of something hardcore, but when you sit down and look at it, it’s right up there with TRUE LIES and COMMANDO in terms of the amount of death and destruction.
In terms of being completely formulaic, this flick hits all the marks. Damsel in distress with the very lovely Vanessa Williams? Check. Williams rocks the respectable and powerful female lead, not overtly weak but weak enough to need Arnold to swoop in and save her on a fairly regular basis. Hell, it makes it fun that way, right??? Then there’s the older good guy turned bad guy thus making him all the much badder? Also check. James Caan rocks the role perfectly as Arnold’s mentor / main bad dude, though he wasn’t as evil as you might expect. Bad, yes. But savagely evil? No, not nearly. You don’t ever really want him to die a violently horrible death at the end of this flick, but you do get some satisfaction when he finally bites the dust. He performs the role quite well, but the role wasn’t ever meant to make you hate the guy.
There’s not a whole lot to not like about this flick, and every time I check it out it gets a little more enjoyable than the time before. Maybe it’s because it’s so much more hardcore than the action flicks of today, or because it shows Arnold doing what Arnold does best with some fantastical set pieces and action sequences that we can all but hope for when he returns to the big screen in THE LAST STAND. If you haven’t seen ERASER, do yourself a favor and check it out—and if you already have (but I’m sure it’s been awhile), there’s no better time than now for a quality revisit of Arnold-size proportions. It might not be as epic as TOTAL RECALL, TRUE LIES, TERMINATOR 2, or COMMANDO, but it’s still a pretty f*cking good time at the movies, and may be the greatest example of the ‘80s style action making its last hoorah in the ‘90s.
Trailer for ERASER!
TOP DEATH: So many to choose from actually, but my favorite happens at the very beginning of the movie, when Arnold slams bad guy’s head in a freezer, he slams the freezer door shut over bad dude’s head, and then spins the dude by the shoulders snapping said dude’s neck. It’s just so f*cking savage / creative, it’s hard not to like.
TOP ACTION SCENE: Arnold wakes up on a plane after being drugged, gets in a gunfight, throws a chair through an airplane engine, hangs on the side of said airplane before throwing out a parachute and jumping after it, then after said parachute is successfully deployed, the plane turns back around for a game of chicken, with Arnold drawing his hand canon on the plane and unleashing his fury. Talk about AWESOME!
TOP HOMOEROTIC MOMENT: Robert Pastorelli is a total fruitcake and Arnold’s reluctant side-kick. So much so Arnold erases his identity and places him in a drag bar. Sure, he’s there for the comic relief, but is he also there for something else? Arnold doesn’t make many advances on Vanessa Williams, so maybe he was being satisfied by another someone… just sayin’!
FEMALE EXPLOITATION: Sadly the biggest flaw of this film is the lack of boobies. Vanessa Williams shed her clothes for Penthouse years ago, she should have shed ‘em for this one as well.
Arnold: You’re luggage! (after shooting an alligator in the face)
DRINKING GAME: Every time Arnold spits out a snappy one-liner or says a “classic Arnold” line like “Trust me.” and "Get down!", you gotta drink!
TRIVIA: The name of the high tech company featured throughout the film was originally called CYREX, but due to a lawsuit from a company called CYRIX prior to the film’s release, the filmmakers had to change the name to CYREZ in post-production. Meaning, every time it’s said aloud it had to be dubbed over and every time the CYREX logo is seen on screen, it had to be digitally altered to read CYREZ.