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Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger,
Vanessa Williams, and James Caan
Directed by Charles Russell

Cranky is suffering a serious case of deja vu. Is it me, or did all the professional, highly paid critics miss the obvious similarities to another blockbuster movie whilst sitting in their comfortable screening rooms watching Arnold Schwarzenegger and Vanessa Williams in Eraser? Perhaps their memories had been erased by sitting too deeply in those comfortable chairs on non-sticky floors? Watch closely . . .

Somewhere in the federal government is an Agency whose members take on the seemingly impossible task of making valuable people, usually witnesses in criminal cases against members of organized crime, disappear. Each of their agents has his own people to use, completely unknown to the other members of the agency. Each of their agents runs his own network of safe houses as well. But a major betrayal of our country's best interests is going down, and the one man who knows the truth has been betrayed by a mole within the Agency. Hunted as a renegade, he must unearth the mole and stop the sale of ultra-sophisticated weapons technology which isn't supposed to exist.

John Kruger (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is the agent. During the course of Eraser, Arnold will shoot a large water-filled tank (in this case filled with very hungry alligators). He will break into a computer station so heavily secured and guarded that no one is supposed to be able to gain entrance. He will do battle with an airplane. He will put together a team -- well, one guy -- of disavowed agents/erased witnesses, to aid him. He will be able to get his hands on specialized equipment and uniforms, seemingly out of the blue, to complete his mission. He will get from one place to another without any indication of how he did it. He will call his superiors and allow the conversation to continue just long enough to be traced.

Waitasec. Tom Cruise did that last one. In Eraser, Arnold tells his boss just where to find him. And with the other exception, that the female lead (Vanessa Williams) is a good guy, what you're watching from your movie seat is almost the same story that Tom Cruise did in Mission: Impossible.

Without the weight of a TV legend on its shoulders, Eraser succeeds as a ridiculous piece of comic-book style nonsense. Which doesn't say much. There are at least four separate places in the story where continuity errors or physical injuries make what follows on screen implausible for anything but an Arnold movie. In and of themselves, the action pieces are fine. But to get from one to the other requires great imagination on the part of the audience, and total disregard for logical storytelling. Including the fact that, once the bad guy's actions reveal him to all as the bad guy, Arnold is STILL hunted as the villain. I won't tell you how that comes about, indeed I've said more than I usually do. It all leads to a visually stimulating conclusion, rife with Mafiosi stereotypes and continuity mismatches, filled with impossible stunts carried out by seriously wounded men.

But it's an Arnold flick, and this is what we expect. But in this case, Arnold comes off as flat as Marvel Comics' The Punisher -- there is a strong physical similarity to the comic book page in a number of shots at the conclusion -- and is consistently upstaged by supporting actor Robert Pastorelli, as one of those erased ex-Mafia types. Vanessa Williams has spunk, until her role slips back into the woman-in-danger stereotype.

Let's face it. We (I, speaking for us all) like stereotypes in Arnold movies, specifically because Schwarzenegger is smart enough to cast himself in a stereotype, too. But Eraser fails because the script just isn't strong enough. It even cops a gag from producer Arnold Kopelson's earlier effort, The Fugitive. It cops its visuals from a comic book. And, considering that Arnold is supposed to be a lawman, at the end it just cops out.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price for Eraser, he would have paid . . .


. . . which is the normal cost of a rental, but a cheapo second run theater just opened two blocks down from me, and I don't think I'd have a problem waiting four months for the cheaper ticket price. Explosions always look good on a really big screen.

Click to buy films by Charles Russell
Click to buy films starring Arnold Schwarzenegger
Click to buy films starring Vanessa L. Williams

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