johnlink ranks ERASER (1996)

When talking about classic Schwarzenegger, ERASER is not a title which comes up. That probably has to do more with time than quality. Is COMMANDO or RED HEAT really a better movie? Probably not. But the standards of the 90s action flick were different than the standards of the 80s action flick. Now, in 2014, neither of the standards by which an action movie would get made 20 or 30 years ago still apply. The increase in the quality (and quantity) of television programming has a lot to do with that. Anyway, an HD ERASER came across my TV and I just couldn’t resist. I hadn’t seen this since I saw it in theaters 18 years ago.


I watched ERASER (1996) on 10.4.14. It was my second viewing of the film and first since 1996.

Some movies probably felt dated the day they came out. ERASER, with its less-than-futuristic x-ray weapon being the film’s MacGuffin, is one of those movies. Seeing this in theaters nearly two decades ago left one feeling like the plot, as it were, left a lot to be desired. Schwarzenegger was coming off of a run which featured two of his most critically acclaimed hits (TERMINATOR 2 and TRUE LIES) and two of his biggest flops (LAST ACTION HERO and JUNIOR). ERASER, at the time, was scene to fall into the latter category.

Visiting this movie again proves worthwhile. We watch a mid 90s action film now expecting that the tech will be behind. The computers are dinosaurs and the pre-9/11 security systems are almost quaint. In fact, quaint is a good description of this film in general. It may be odd to call a relatively violent R-Rated film quaint, but that’s how it feels when a guy flashes a badge and moves into a Marshal’s office without a question or when a cell phone was not also an automatic tracking device for the bad guys to exploit.

The story has Schwarzenegger as Marshal  John Kruger. He specializes in witness protection, and has a reputation for making people disappear until their testimony can be heard. He comes into contact with Lee Cullen (Vanessa Williams) who has some information about a tech company making nefarious weapons. They are supposed to be contracted to work for the US Government only, but they are doing bad things. Turns out those bad things are being done with the ok of the US Government, so Kruger and Cullen end up on the run from a bunch of bad guys led by Kruger’s old mentor, Marshal DeGuerin (James Caan).

There are a wide range of action scenes with varying success. A skydiving scene is surprisingly strong, with a couple levels of danger. An attack by alligators in a zoo is far less successful, with the gators looking like silly CGI animals who attack trained killers who are suddenly only able to hit a giant animal with a bullet or avoid the slow moving creatures. The scenes with the x-ray guns are not all you would hope. For being the major danger in the movie, they really only manage to do damage to an extremely minor character whom we meet thirty seconds earlier. The formulaic action move of the 21st century would have had scenes demonstrating just how dangerous these things are, and just how important it is to keep them out of the wrong hands. Of course, they expectedly end up in Arnie’s hands at the end for a show of ballistic power (and suddenly they are much more effective weapons… go figure).

This turns out to be a decent little action movie though. Schwarzenegger does his thing, and is fine. Williams is nothing special, but holds her own. Caan is sinister enough as the bad guy, and James Coburn is nice to see in the big boss role. The smart thing, and unusual for 90s movies, is that ERASER avoids forcing a romantic relationship between its lead male and female. Plenty of movies in this genre were turned into silly melodramas. ERASER, for some of its faults, at least knows what it is.

This probably falls somewhere in the middle of the Schwarzenegger hierarchy. It is not special, but it is certainly watchable. If you can look past the silly tech, its a breezy little two hour action movie.




FINAL SCORE: 5.75 out of 10


~ by johnlink00 on October 5, 2014.

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