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Eraser Review

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A Witness Protection specialist becomes suspicious of his co-workers when dealing with a case involving high-tech weapons.

★★★★★

As this season’s “Arnie movie” — that sub-genre of the action film or, indeed, that film costing the price of a small African nation and featuring the Austrian behemoth chewing cigars, smirking and blowing up battalions of nameless extras to the tune of a pithy comeback — Eraser is oddly, well, understated. It is big (reports say $100 million big). It is loud, violent, sporadically funny, slickly directed and way up-tempo on the action set-pieces and cool hardware. What it lacks is a spin.
In Terminator (and T2) Arnie was a robot, in the Conans he was Conan, in True Lies he was Bond with a bad marriage. Even his comedies were huge on concept (Arnie and Danny are twins, Arnie teaches pre-school, Arnie is preggers), but here he is just a guy who wears black, explodes buildings and kills people without remorse. It’s been boiled down to the ultimate conceit: this is just a movie because Arnold Schwarzenegger is in it.
That said, it’s not a bad reason. Eraser, with its thumping score, cheerful lack of political sensibility
and gloriously overdone stunts, rests squarely on those broad, overpumped shoulders and they heave the
film straight into the base camp of popular entertainment.
Schwarzenegger is an elite US Marshall John Kruger, the “eraser” who removes all trace of state witnesses and fits them up with new identities. Virtually unbeatable, he works alone deep undercover — a fact hard to swallow given that this actor is about the most recognisable person in America. Anyway, with nil ado Lee Cullen (Williams) — busy grassing up her hi-tech arms firm for black marketeering to global terrorists — gets her cover blown and bad apple Marshall Robert Deguerin (Caan) is about do his bit of rubbing out. In steps Arnold. Out fly stupefying numbers of dead people.
It’s thin stuff; an excuse to tie the rip-roaring action pieces together. These range from the sensational to the silly — wrestling alligators in Central Park Zoo, come on — but The Mask director Russell delivers them without a moment’s doubt (or sincerity) and a whole lot of CGI excess.
There is a reason Arnie kicking ass has become part of movie culture: it can be crackingly good fun. The big man still delivers his lines in that familiar Morse-code jitter but his timing has got mean and he beats all-comers when it comes to automatic gunfire. Williams is attractive and spunky, and Caan, with a career’s worth of scumbags behind him, delivers his sneering best.
On the Schwarzenegger career curve, this is one step forward and two giant steps back. As an action movie, it is ABC simple and very 80s. In a way, it is a good metaphor for the star himself: expensive, efficient, at times extraordinary, but always one-dimensional. Having had our fill of
hi-tech spy craft, whooshing tornadoes and alien invasions already this summer, buying into such numbskull machismo just gets so much harder.

Totally OTT, but undeniably enjoyable.

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