A couple have been incapacitated in their own home after the man foolishly allowed his true identity to be discovered by the criminal underworld who had caused him to be put in the Witness Protection Scheme in the first place. Just as it looks as if they will be murdered, a shadowy figure bursts in and makes quick work of killing off the intruders and introduces himself as the man who will save the couple. He is John Kruger (Arnold Schwarzenegger), a U.S. Marshall specialising in "erasing", that is ensuring that those at risk for helping the authorities are given new lives safe from harm. He is the best in the business, but soon will discover that he will be the one who needs saving...
There's something strange about the off-peak Arnold Schwarzenegger movies, isn't there? They went through familiar motions, but everything after True Lies was a bit ho-hum really. With the exception of Terminator 3, none exactly set the box office alight as his eighties and early nineties heyday had, and Eraser is a case in point. It went through a host of writers to hone the script into something exciting, but still felt like a retread of past glories with a storyline resembling a bona fide Schwarzenegger hit, but with only the ghost of the spirit.
Perhaps for this reason Eraser made some fans nostalgic, and it feels churlish to complain about a lack of originality in a film that features its star jump out of a jet plane which he has just disabled by exploding one of its engines after a parachute that he catches, puts on then gets run over by said plane in a murder attempt. To give one example of what was hoped to be a showstopper setpiece. Yet the fact is that while such shenanigans may raise a chuckle, they were patently though up for the film first and then a place was found for them later.
Kruger's problems occur when he has to look after a F.B.I. whistle blower called Lee Cullen (Vanessa Williams, the ex-Miss America one, not the other one) when she liberates a disc of top secret material from her work, a high powered defence company. She is rumbled, and the head of the company proceeds to blow his brains out in front of her thereby dashing the hopes of James Cromwell fans who though he might have a bigger part to play. When the F.B.I. cannot protect her, Kruger is brought in and it all looks as if she has been set up in a new life safely, though not before she is shot at with a fancy newfangled rifle that has X-ray vision sights and everything.
It is those rifles that are apt to fall into the wrong hands if the bad guys have their way, and when someone starts killing off Kruger's previous erased people, he is landed in a conspiracy that reaches to somewhere near the top, like in a seventies paranoia thriller. But Schwarzenegger has a nineties new man side as well, as seen when he counsels those he assists, specifically Lee, though fear not, he gets to fire off massive guns as well, and there is a total lack of lovey-doveyness betweeen the two stars. It is this efficiency that marks Eraser out as an entirely workmanlike effort, almost like a feature length TV pilot, but there can be action movie fun to be had when, say, Kruger uses his penultimate bullet to unleash alligators on the bad guys at the zoo. Perfect, then, for watching with the mind disengaged so as not to worry about the ins and outs of the plotting, this is just the thing for comfort food-equivalent action flicks. Music by Alan Silvestri.