Rated "R" (for... take a WILD guess.)
by Scott Mendelson
Around halfway through Eraser, there is a startling twist. The film actually falls upon... an actual scheme to be thwarted. Yes, Arnie has more to do than just kill people. That's right, he actually has to stop an arms-deal before some really mean-looking rifles get sold to the Russian-Mafia. Before this, Arnie (playing a Witness Protection Marshal, assigned to protect Vanessa Williams, who has uncovered that her company is planning to sell weapons to bad guys), basically runs about, and shoots and stabs bad guys. Of course, few go to Schwarzenegger epics for it's multi-layered plots, and the film works because Schwarzenegger, James Caan (playing a fellow agent/mentor), and Chuck Russell (director of The Mask) understand this.
When, while being ambushed by evil fiends, who wish to slay the pure and true Vanessa Williams in her place of slumber, William's ex-boyfriend walks in the house just in time to get blasted across the room by some "neato gun"(which shoots green electric bolts of aluminum at the speed of light, or something like that), we laugh and sigh in recognition; yes, that is just what happens in these movies. When Arnie, while being pursued in one of them “abandoned flame factories”, notices that his shotgun is broken, he tosses it to the stalking bad guy, who stares at it just long enough to be mistaken for our hero, who of course, was seen by a sniper to be toting a shotgun. We sigh, again in recognition, as the poor villain is blasted away by another one of those cool "neato guns". Why did the henchman stand and stare at the gun? Because, he is a bad guy in an action film, thus, he is stupid.
And, of course, no Arnold epic would be complete without scenes of Arnold getting impaled (a BIG nail, a BIG shard of glass) and shot through his arms and legs, and then, moments later having all signs of the wounds vanishing without a trace (who else besides Arnold, Harrison Ford, or Sly Stallone, could get shot in the arm, and then use that same arm to pull a damsel in distress to safety). Besides all the "fun-dumb" stuff, there are the usual Arnold staples. There is one cool stunt, involving Arnold throwing a parachute out a plane door, and then flying out the plane to catch it. There are lots of would-be one-liners/catch-phrases (my fave: after shooting an alligator in a zoo: "You're luggage."). Most importantly, there are the usual thirty-some bad guys dead in 111 min.
Overall, Eraser is big, expensive, dumb fun. The acting is exactly what we'd expect. Arnie plays a superman, James Caan plays James Caan per usual, and Vanessa Williams's part is basically to run, scream, look nervous, and look good doing all of the above. The stunts are impressive, as are the shoot-outs. Although the action does get a little gory at times (did we really need long close-ups of Arnie pulling nails and glass out of his body?), generally, the tone is light. While not nearly as good as True Lies (the best shoot-em up ever made), Eraser is much better than Last Action Hero, which is enough for me. Eraser is a throw back to the pre Total Recall era, when everyone Arnold Schwarzenneger film wasn't expected revolutionize action cinema. This isn't transformative, it's just a rock-solid action adventure picture.