Arnold's 'Eraser' is action and quips Review: Fans of Schwarzenegger will not be disappointed in his always fast, sometimes funny action adventure.

June 21, 1996|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN STAFF

Bambambambambambam. Ratatatatatatatatatatat. Blamblamblamblamblamblam. Ker-pow. Grrrrrr. Arghhhh. The End.

There. Now that the plot's out of the way, let's get to the matter at hand: What about that new Schwarzenegger film?

Suffice to say, "Eraser" is one heck of a ride. Ludicrous at times, obvious at times, very funny at times, the one thing it never is is boring.

It should make Arnold's fans very happy.

Schwarzenegger plays a U.S. marshal whose job is simple: Keep people alive. His person today is one Lee Cullen (Vanessa Williams), a high official with Cyrez Corp., a big-time defense contractor, who has the double misfortune of 1) discovering her bosses are up to some hanky-panky with some big guns that could change the very nature of warfare (not to mention world terrorism), and 2) being naive enough to believe she can simply turn them in, then walk away and return to life-as-normal.

In an Arnold film? Not likely. The folks behind what turns out to be a very illegal -- and very labyrinthine -- arms deal want Lee dead. The FBI wants her alive, so she can testify. And Arnold? Well, Arnold simply wants to do his job. Which means he's gonna kill a lot of bad guys, perform lots of superhuman stunts and do whatever it takes to ensure his charge is around for the end of the movie.

"Eraser" is the most intense roller coaster you'll ride all summer. The first big thrill comes maybe 15 minutes into the film, as Williams must get inside the company's high-security computer system to get the information the FBI needs. The second comes when the bad guys take their first crack at killing her.

Then the third explodes on the screen, and from here on in, you'd better make sure your seat belts are fastened.

Arnold jumps out of a plane about two minutes after his parachute, meaning he has to steer his body toward the plummeting chute, grab it, strap it on, then float serenely down to Earth.

By the way, did I mention the guys flying the plane are steering right for his face?

Yeah, the stunt's incredible, and yeah, the photography and special effects are state-of-the-art. But no, this isn't as intense as it gets. Still to come is Arnold battling alligators, Arnold working his way into the defense contractor's office, then shooting his way out, and a final confrontation on the docks of Baltimore that could make you forget even to blink.

Still, "Eraser" has its flawed elements. For one, you can almost feel the screenwriters trying to come up with a new catch phrase -- you know, something like "I'll be back." Which means Arnold doesn't so much utter dialogue as make quips that would fit nicely onto a bumper sticker.

The film has a fascination for sticking long, sharp spikes into (and sometimes through) people, then watching them get pulled out. It happens three times, which is at least two too many.

Williams, while game enough, simply isn't given much to do. Her character is nowhere near as essential to the story as, for instance, Jamie Lee Curtis' in "True Lies" or Linda Hamilton's in "Terminator 2: Judgment Day." And director Charles Russell ("The Mask") doesn't have nearly the elan of James Cameron, who has teamed with Arnold on his three best action films ("The Terminator," "Terminator 2" and "True Lies").

There's also one disturbing shift from previous Arnold films. Used to be the people who got killed deserved what they got; that's always been one of the genre's pleasures. But here, a lot of those who are mowed down -- members of the Cyrez security force, for instance -- are essentially innocent pawns.

Still, you're not likely to notice many of these details as the ride rolls along. And the movie includes a talented supporting cast, including James Caan, James Coburn and Robert Pastorelli, who provides some much-needed comic relief as a blustering former wiseguy who helps Arnold out of some jams.

Not that Arnold really needs it, of course.

"Eraser" is his roller coaster, and he's got his hand firmly on the controls. Enjoy the ride.

'Eraser'

Starring: James Caan, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Vanessa Williams.

Directed by: Charles Russell

Released by: Warner Bros.

Rated R (violence, language)

Sun Score: ***

Pub Date: 6/21/96

RTC

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