“Eraser” is probably the last picture that can really be called a “true” Arnold Schwarzenegger film. It is, in all likelihood, the last action movie where Arnold is still believable as an action hero, and it’s a pretty good one — that is, if you like Arnold action movies.
The big S is John Kruger, a U.S. Marshal working for the Witness Protection agency, who has to protect whistleblower Lee (Vanessa L. Williams) from her bosses, shady weapons developers who plan on selling their latest invention — a high-powered, fancy-schmancy rifle — to enemies of the U.S. Problem is, not only are Lee’s bosses after her, but the bad guys also have some reach in Kruger’s agency, most notably Kruger’s mentor Deguerin (James Caan). Framed for killing other agents in the field, Kruger and Lee must flee their own people and somehow survive as fugitives. And oh, there’s a big gunfight about every 10 minutes or so. What did you expect?
“Eraser” is good because it’s such a true Arnold movie. It’s simple in plot, incredibly simplistic in its treatment of “good vs. bad” guys, and its action is the real star. This is 1996, and Arnold still looked mean and credible with a gun in one hand while the other hand is punching out the lights of bad guys everywhere. Director Chuck Russell (“The Scorpion King”) knows what he has here, and uses all the elements in his favor. All the pieces fit, the action sequences are spectacular, and you haven’t seen ballsy action until you’ve seen Arnold going mano-a-mano with a private jet — and winning!
The best Arnold movies are the ones with a properly winning co-star. “Eraser” sports three, including Vanessa L. Williams as the chief damsel in distress. Williams is beautiful eye candy, and although her character has very little character development, this is all right. After all, this is an Arnold picture, not “Citizen Kane.”
As the good guy-turned-bad, James Caan is appropriately nasty and snarls his way through the film. The role of comic belief belongs to Robert Pastorelli as a Mafioso who Kruger “erases” and then needs the help of later on in the film. When Kruger locates Pastorelli for aid, he finds the Italian mobster working as a bartender in a — gasp — gay bar!
No one will ever confuse “Eraser” with an award-winning film, but it is a good movie because it knows its roots, its star, and capitalizes on both. It’s wall-to-wall action, the stunts are ballsy and quite inventive, and best of all, Arnold is in prime form.
That is, if you like this kind of movie.
Chuck Russell (director)
CAST: Arnold Schwarzenegger …. John Kruger
James Caan …. Robert Deguerin
Vanessa L. Williams …. Dr. Lee Cullen
Robert Pastorelli …. Johnny C.