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Eraser

Rated R, 107 min. Directed by Charles Russell. Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Vanessa Williams, James Caan, James Coburn, Robert Pastorelli.

REVIEWED By Joey O'Bryan, Fri., June 28, 1996

Eraser is pretty much what you'd expect from the new Arnold Schwarzengger vehicle: gargantuan explosions, not-so-witty witticisms, deafening gunfire, first-rate special effects work, and, last but most certainly not least, those charmingly incomprehensible line readings. However, despite having all the tried-and-true elements set firmly in place, Ah-nold's latest doesn't quite measure up to the action star's finest work, even if it should prove to be a mildly pleasing diversion for fans. The problems begin with Schwarzenegger himself, who does little more than walk through his seemingly tailor-made role of John Kruger, an elite agent working for the FBI's Witness Protection Program. He finds himself up to his neck in bad guys when he stumbles upon a top-secret government conspiracy while protecting a beautiful witness (Williams) who is in possession of an incriminating computer disk detailing the illegal sale of high-tech weapons technology, specifically the incredibly lethal “Rail Gun,” a weapon that can see through walls and shoot bullets at something close to the speed of light. Inconsistencies abound (Schwarzenegger's character is referred to in the closing credits and the theatrical trailers as “Eraser,” although he's never addressed as such in the finished film) and several fine performers (Roma Maffia, Danny Nucci, and, most criminally, James Cromwell) are wasted in useless subplots, but the real problem with Eraser is that it simply runs out of steam about halfway through, having already offered up its most spectacular set-pieces -- a show-stopping mid-air duel with a 747 and an outrageous confrontation with a roomful of hungry alligators -- long before the picture has reached its climax. On the other hand, Pastorelli gives a dynamite comic performance as the former mob thug who plays an integral role in helping Schwarzenegger wipe out the bad guys, while singer-turned-actress Williams makes a surprisingly credible heroine and Caan sleazes it nicely as the thoroughly despicable villain. No doubt about it, Eraser has its moments (did I mention the nifty scene with 100 flying drill bits?), but the third act is a real letdown, and there's no escaping the ring of familiarity -- the fact that we've seen Schwarzenegger do all this before, and in films superior to this passable but workmanlike effort.
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