Of our hero, one thug observes, "Who's the tree trunk?"

ERASER

A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.


"Kaboom!" It's Arnold again. In "Eraser," he's John Kruger, U.S. Marshall, protector of important government witnesses, eraser of their pasts, creator of their new identities. In full self-parody, he bursts up through the floorboards, crashes through doors, mows people down, and wins every one-against-ten battle he undertakes.

Caught in the explosions of two houses, a free-fall from a jet, and an ugly impalement, he emerges each time, eyes shining with power and the determination to complete his mission. His mission is to protect Lee Cullen (Vanessa Williams), a trusted employee at Cyrez, a defense contractor running illegal weapons to the Russian Mafia.

At great risk to herself, Lee has stolen the crucial CD. Discovered on closed circuit TV, she must now be saved and erased by Kruger. Did I forget to tell you that, by the time we reach this point, we have seen a couple doused in gas and flames, watched some hearty knife slashing, and listened to the sound of neack bones breaking?

If that isn't enough, consider the 'rail gun.' Powered by electromagnetic pulses and firing aluminum rounds in arcs of blue smoke, it blows its victims across the room. When villains and heroes converge on the Central Park Zoo, we know in a flash that the tank alligators are ravenous. Of another victim, it is said, "they peeled her like an onion. If she knew anything, she talked." At least they left that one to our imagination.

Let's not be all negative. There is a good, suspenseful stretch while Lee copies the CD against the five-minute deadline that will seal her doom. It has all the bells and whistles and oblique computer dialogue boxes we could ask for, and the premise isn't bad. Illegal weapons sales are hot right now. 'The only thing that counts is who gets rich and who gets dead.' Yesiree.

Credit Robert Pastorelli, who brings a truly light heart to the role of Johnny C. Once saved by Kruger, he repays the favor with a comic portrayal of a hit man with connections. And note the irony of the assumption that it's politically O.K. to portray a union boss as a comic crook.

The filmmakers emptied the special-effects arsenal into this movie along with the most overwrought musical score in recent memory. What they forgot was the actors. The polished appeal Arnold Schwarzenegger acquired for "True Lies" vanishes here. No pretense is made that he is anything but a weapon-wielding cartoon character whose sole goal is to posture--usually in a grimace that bares all those teeth.

Vanessa Williams reminds us of the classic damsel in distress, tied to the railroad tracks in front of the onrushing locomotive. When she and Arnold try to make light of things, their delivery is so wooden you are forced to look down at your popcorn bag in embarrassment. Of our hero, one thug observes, "Who's the tree trunk?" Amen.


Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 496
Studio : Warner Bros.
Rating : R
Running Time: 1h45m


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