Retro Review | Eraser (1996)

Retro Review | Eraser (1996)

A free DVD leads John to review Schwarzenegger’s Eraser, a film he hasn’t seen since its release in 1996.

This review is all due to a kind person in my hometown. They left a box of DVDs and CDs outside their house, and this was one of the films I took.

I haven’t seen Eraser since it’s release on cinema screens in 1996. My friends and I mocked the picture at the time, and I decided, “Hey! It’s a free DVD, lets give it another chance!”

Eraser stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as a John Kruger, a US Marshall who works for the WITSEC program (WITness SECurity). It is his job to fake high profile witness’s deaths and provide them with a new identity and a safe location to live.

John’s latest assignment is to protect Lee Cullen (Vanessa L. Williams), a senior executive at Cyrez Corporation, a defence contractor. Lee warned the FBI that top-level Cyrez executives covered up the creation of a top-secret electromagnetic rifle and plan to sell the weapon on the black market.

The FBI involve her in an operation to retrieve the data that will prove what the Cyrez executives are planning, but it all goes wrong, and her life is put into danger.

John arrives to take her into the program, but she refuses and goes home. Not long after she arrives, men try to kill her using the same electromagnetic rifles that she stole the data of. Luckily, John arrives on the scene to save the day.

So begins a film which, by 1996, was surely becoming a dying art form, the big loud action blockbuster hosted by a major film star.

I generally think of these films as a product of the 80’s, Commando, Rambo etc. so I had completely forgotten how this film was going to progress.

Arnie decided to fly economy class!

If you forget about the over the top high-tech weaponry, a rail gun that not only is incredibly powerful but can also give you a live x-ray feed of a building as well, allowing you to target an individual’s heart, then this film starts out very well.

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There are several action pieces involving shoot-outs that wouldn’t go amiss in any other film of this calibre, but then it starts to go a little overboard.

At the mid-point of the film, there is a shoot out on a private jet. John manages to escape and free falls through the air to catch the emergency parachute he threw out of the plane just moments earlier.

Whilst he is slowing falling to the earth, now safely strapped into his parachute, the bad guy isn’t going to let him get away easy. He demands that the pilot circles around and flies into John under the threat of being shot.

It was now that I realized, this wasn’t going to be a “realistic” action film.

It gets better! In trying to escape from three armed assailants in the reptile house of the New York Zoo, John shoots out the glass of the alligator enclosure. The alligators attack the bad guys in a frenzied attack.

I know this isn’t the common behaviour of the alligator, and this was achieved with a mixture of animatronics and 1990s CGI that looked iffy on opening day, it certainly doesn’t look any better now.

But it’s not all bad in that respect, the CGI effect for the high-tech weaponry is pretty damn good and the aforementioned private jet fight is a clever mixture of miniatures, CGI and live action that is very well done.

Lee Cullen (Vanessa L. Williams) manages to hold her own, but this is a very male centric film.

This all builds up to the big finale, which is when it finally “clicked in” that this is what was then a traditional Arnie film. In essence, it’s everyone versus Arnold as he takes on the bad guys single-handedly.

Yeah, sure he gets injured, but only enough that he’s inconvenienced for a few more moments before he lays waste to yet more bad guys.

Eraser has an impressive cast for this action blockbuster. As already mentioned, we have Schwarzenegger and Williams who by the way is pretty much the only female in the film, but she’s able to hold her own to a certain degree.

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Their joined by James Caan as Schwarzenegger’s boss at Witsec, and in turn James Coburn is his boss. I wonder how they managed to bring two such well known big names to the film. Coburn in an Arnie film, come on!

We also get a selection of great character actors who appear such as James Cromwell, Joe Viterelli, Mark Rolston and John Slattery. You may not know these names now, but once you’re watching the film its several cases of, “Oh! I know that guy, he’s from…”

 US Marshal Robert DeGuerin (James Caan) & US Marshal WITSEC Chief Arthur Beller (James Coburn). These two bring a level of gravitas to this action blockbuster.

Directed by Charles Russell who helmed the Jim Carrey comedy The Mask and would later go on to direct Dwayne Johnson in The Scorpion King, it’s a competent action film, but I just wish it had established its tone early on.

However, there is one scene of a medical nature that I won’t spoil but its seems to be added as a moment of humour, and it felt completely out of place within the confines of this film. It wasn’t helped by the fact that the medical staff were performing a medical procedure completely wrong either.

As I already stated, I barely had any memory of this film and due to its late 90s release date, I thought this was going to be one of Arnold’s film’s that was headed in a more serious direction.

Don’t make the mistake I did. Go into this film expecting a classic 80s style Arnie shoot-em-up, and you can’t go wrong. It’s a big slice of popcorn entertainment that will assault your eyes and ears and won’t tax your brain.


3 out 5

Eraser is a good action blockbuster with a throwaway plot and entertaining action.

John Abbitt

About the author | John Abbitt

@UKFilmNerd | John loves film, and he used to write for his own website, The Tydirium Hangar Bay, in the late 1990s. Whilst that website became lost in the passages of time, John's love of film did not. He's back, writing for The Unheard Nerd.