Director Philipp Stölzl’s “Erased” is certainly not bad. It’s not great, either, mind you, but in terms of sucky cinema, it’s not that. It’s a bit derivative, and aside from the film’s central father and daughter characters played by leads Aaron Eckhart and Liana Liberato, respectively, the film features some stunningly generic and one-dimensional people. Even an attempt to inject humanity into one of the villains comes across as flat and pointless, not to mention tacked on. Go big or go home, boys. They decided to meander instead.
As a “Taken”-esque, “Bourne Identity”-ish actioner, “Erased” is not an entirely bad film. Set in and around Brussels, Belgium, the film stars Eckhart as Ben Logan, a former CIA badass (aren’t they all?) who has relocated to the European country to start a new life with his estranged daughter Amy (Liberato). We eventually learn what happened to throw father and daughter together, which comes much later in the film. Up first, though, is about 20 minutes of character build-up so we will “get” just how estranged father and daughter are. They are really, really estranged, in case you were wondering. He doesn’t even know what she’s allergic to, that sort of estrangement.
Fortunately for them, they’re about to get a whole lot closer when Ben’s entire security company (the place he’s been working at for months now) disappears one day, as if it never existed. Soon, men with guns are trying to kill them. Thank God Ben has all that cool CIA training to call forth. He kicks some ass, busts some faces, and crashes a car or two. All of this is interwoven with CIA bigwigs back at Langley discussing one of those multi-national corporations and their eeeeeeevil money-making schemes. The guys in suits, in case you couldn’t have guessed, are the bad guys. Slimey, absolutely morals-free bad guys. I mean, these dudes would probably kill their mom for a buck. Or two. Definitely for a five spot, though.
When it comes to characters not named Ben or Amy, “Erased” doesn’t have a clue. It’s a good thing then that much of the movie is spent with Ben and Amy as they dodge cops, guys with guns, and generically evil CIA types led by Anna Brandt (Olga Kurylenko), here sounding every bit like a Russian trying very hard to play an American. Or at least, I’m assuming Kurylenko is playing an American, it’s never really made clear. I’m assuming, of course, that the CIA wouldn’t allow someone with a still-obvious Russian accent to rise up to such a high level in their organization that she’s capable of doing all sorts of shady back-end operations all by her little lonesome. Then again, according to movies about the CIA that I’ve seen over the years, these guys are at once dumb as rocks and brilliant enough to mastermind any and all globe-trotting conspiracies.
It’s as an action movie that “Erased” will sell tickets (or digital rentals, as it were). Eckhart spends much of the film looking like he just came over from the set of “Battle: Los Angeles” (and probably did, since the film was finished way back in 2012). Ben looks ragged from beginning to end, as he battles and shoots his way through the storyline. This isn’t the kind of role that’s going to win Eckhart awards, but props to him anyway for looking just as convincing kicking ass as Liam Neeson did in “Taken” or Damon in the “Bourne” films. I was actually a little worried that Liana Liberato’s character would become insufferable, since trailers for the film certainly didn’t do Amy any favors. Turns out, that was unnecessary. Amy’s reactions to her father and the perilous situations they find themselves in are perfectly legitimate, and young Ms. Liberato is one hell of an actress. I can see her doing some heavy duty drama in the future.
If you’re a fan of films like “Taken”, then “Erased” was probably designed specifically for you, and it delivers in that regard, if not much else. Eckhart and Liberato are unquestionably the film’s strongest assets as the dogged father and daughter team, more so because the film suffers from cartoonish bad guys and the somewhat muddled handling of Kurylenko’s character. Honestly, I don’t think screenwriter Arash Amel knew what to do with her, and it kind of shows. Bottom line: “Erased” features some nifty action sequences, Aaron Eckhart is pretty good, and the Belgium locations are exotic and European-y, for those of you who enjoy such things.
“Erased” opens May 10 in limited release, but is currently available for download at Amazon Instant Video.
Philipp Stölzl (director) / Arash Amel (screenplay)
CAST: Aaron Eckhart … Ben Logan
Liana Liberato … Amy
Olga Kurylenko … Anna Brandt
Neil Napier … Derek Kohler
Garrick Hagon … James Halgate III
Eric Godon … Maitland
David Bark-Jones … Marty Braemer
Jade Hassouné … Abdi