Critics' Corner
Rita Kempley - Style section, "Superb action sequences ... and high-tech bone-crunching ensue."


Desson Howe - Weekend section, "A winning attraction."


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Schwarzenegger's 'Eraser'


Scene from this movie Arnold Schwarzenegger's John Kruger unearths a mole in his back yard -- which is a witness protection program. Kruger, the group's top operative, "erases" all traces of a stool pigeon's existence until it's time to testify.

After rescuing one of his charges in an explosive opener, Kruger's boss and mentor -- cagey James Caan -- assigns him to baby-sit Lee Cullen (Vanessa Williams), who blows the whistle on her colleagues at the Cyrez Corp. A leading defense contractor, Cyrez is selling top-secret rail guns (hand-held guided-missile launchers) to foreigners. But the conspiracy actually reaches the highest levels of government, as Cullen and Kruger soon discover. -- Rita Kempley
Rated R


Director: Charles Russell
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger; James Caan; Vanessa Williams; James Coburn; Robert Pastorelli
Running Time: 2 hours
Filmographies: Arnold Schwarzenegger; Vanessa Williams; James Coburn; James Caan






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'Eraser,' Rubbing Them Out Right and Left

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
June 21, 1996

"Eraser," a standard-issue Schwarzebuckler, harks back to "Commando" and other wild and woolly action adventures from Arnold's early post-Conan epoch. A heady, hardware-heavy assault on the senses, this facile shoot-'em-up pits the hard-bodied butt-kicker against a cabal of traitors, a tank of crocodiles and the Russian mob. Superb action sequences, an explosive soundtrack and high-tech bone-crunching ensue.

Like Tom Cruise's secret agent in "Mission: Impossible," Schwarzenegger's John Kruger unearths a mole in his back yard -- which is a witness protection program. Kruger, the group's top operative, "erases" all traces of a stool pigeon's existence until it's time to testify.

After rescuing one of his charges in an explosive opener, Kruger's boss and mentor -- cagey James Caan -- assigns him to baby-sit Lee Cullen (Vanessa Williams), who blows the whistle on her colleagues at the Cyrez Corp. A leading defense contractor, Cyrez is selling top-secret rail guns (hand-held guided-missile launchers) to foreigners. But the conspiracy actually reaches the highest levels of government, as Cullen and Kruger soon discover.

Pursued by armies of gunmen and ravenous reptiles, the pair escape to New York's Chinatown and circle back to Washington before they tie things up in an elaborate display of fireworks at the Baltimore docks. A trail of corpses marks their progress.

Of course, each kill inspires one of Schwarzenegger's gluteus maxims. "You're luggage," he snaps while adding a crocodile to the heap of carcasses. As he did in "Total Recall," he uses one of the dead as a shield against the bullets of his comrades. But here, he also loads the body with live grenades and hurls it at his enemies.

Though he is impaled on two occasions and takes a bullet in the shoulder, the action icon plods on to ever greater stunts of daring (and at the pic's outset some pretty thick exposition). The hero's feats are implausible even by action standards, but screenwriters Tony Puryear and Walon Green have concocted one of the summer's most spectacular action sequences.

Trapped aboard a jet with his nemesis, Kruger sets the engine on fire, then dives after a loose parachute. He not only manages to catch up with it, but straps it on before losing it again in a head-on collision with the villain's plane. Now that's a mission impossible, and who is better suited to attempt it than a comic book human? The stunt certainly has more sizzle than Cruise's gymnastics atop a speeding train.

Just as the gunplay begins to wear thin, Robert Pastorelli, as one of Kruger's grateful former witnesses, arrives with comic relief. Pastorelli -- "Murphy Brown's" former house painter -- persuades some of his old Mafia chums to side with Kruger in his showdown with the Russian mafia. Before the last kaboom, a rainbow coalition of patriots has joined Kruger's cause -- Latin, Asian and African American.

In what is surely a first for a Schwarzenegger flick, even gay Americans get into the act. Wearing dresses in "Junior" seems to have had a marvelous effect on the behemoth beefcake.

At last, Ah-nold is in touch with his inner drag queen.

Eraser is rated R for profanity and violence.

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'Eraser': Arnold Gets Lead Out

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
June 21, 1996

"Eraser," the new Ah-nold movie, is a cinematic Avis. It's so busy trying harder than those other summer movies, its competitiveness dominates all thinking. You're not watching anything original, you're just reexperiencing elements you've seen in a jillion other spectacles (including "Die Hard," "True Lies" and even "Mission: Impossible"), only with more heat, more crash, more burn.

But that doesn't mean this energetic, incendiary display isn't enjoyable. There's an appropriately playful, so-what? attitude about its improbabilities, its ballistics and its less-than-organic human development. You need a special, jocular outlook for a movie in which Schwarzenegger holds on to the side of a speeding airliner, uses an innocent bystander's dead body as a shield (which he also did in "Total Recall"), gets impaled twice and has this to say when he shoots an alligator to death: "You're luggage."

The not-so secret ingredient in this derivative, explosive mix is Schwarzenegger. Even in this movie's cheesy and unbelievable moments -- and there's more than a few of 'em -- he's a winning attraction. Why is it, exactly, that we get such a kick out of someone who looks like a Doberman pinscher with a crewcut?

In "Eraser," the Austrian bodybuilder/actor plays John Kruger, an elite marshall with the Federal Witness Protection Program. His job is to protect whistleblowers until they testify, then change their identities.

His latest assignment is Lee Cullen (Vanessa Williams), an employee of a defense contractor who has uncovered a corporate plan to sell lethal "rail guns" to international terrorists. These enormous, macho firearms have X-ray-viewing sights which send building-busting, aluminum bullets whizzing towards their target. Bad news. Gotta stop 'em. Whole new era of world terrorism and all that.

But when a federally organized entrapment scheme goes awry, Cullen finds herself being chased by murky assailants -- all toting those killer blasters. Everyone is after her, it seems, and Kruger is the only one she can trust. He tells her to hide in New York City's Chinatown and wait for his word. If there's trouble, he says, run to the Central Park Zoo. This means lots of escapes and, more importantly, an exotic staging ground for one of the movie's innumerable climactic scenes.

Like all those flicks it's imitating, "Eraser" moves from one blow-your-mind chapter to the next. (The movie is simply terrified of losing its audience.) There's the aforementioned airplane affair, in which Kruger has to evade the bad guys by throwing a parachute out into the blue skies, diving after it, strapping it on in midair, then floating down to safety. Hey, it could happen. But the most stirring scene is likely to be the blazing gun battle in the zoo's reptile house, where Kruger fires at the alligator tank, causing a plurality of enormous, snapping, tail-lashing 'gators to come cascading out.

Of course, while Kruger and Cullen evade those rail gun-toting, treacherous, hiss-worthy thugs, they engage in requisite action banter. "You're late," says Cullen, when her protector finally joins her in the zoo -- this after smashing his way through the blocked gates in a tow truck. "Traffic," he explains, curtly.

But the real laughter comes during the couple's more, uh, tender moments. Early in the movie, as Cullen destroys her photographs, records and identification cards, she laments that she has just destroyed her identity.

"What you are is in here," counters Kruger softly (well, softly for a Doberman), pointing to his heart. "No one can take that from you." Arnold, you wanna cut out the sensitivity? There are guys watching.

ERASER (R) -- Contains profanity, Austrian-accented English and more violence than space allows to describe.

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