Joining a long list of post-'80s Arnold Schwarzenegger flops that includes 'Collateral Damage,' 'The 6th Day' and 'End of Days,' 'Eraser' is another regurgitation of the Austrian superstar's career bests. Throw in a dash of 'Commando,' a hint of 'Running Man,' some hi-tech 'Total Recall' shenanigans and even a bit of 'Raw Deal,' and you pretty much have the uninspired, half-baked stew that is 'Eraser.' This is a by-the-numbers and wholly routine action flick, and one that sees Schwarzenegger playing one of his least memorable heroes.
John Kruger (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is a U.S. Marshal who "erases" the lives and identities of people entering the Witness Protection Program. In his latest "do-or-die assignment," Kruger must protect executive Lee Cullen (Vanessa Williams) who's uncovered a high-powered political plot (led by baddie James Caan) to put a new superweapon in the hands of an American enemy. In typical Schwarzenegger-flick fashion, Kruger's counterassault includes a plunge from an airplane sans parachute, battling ravenous alligators, outfoxing an ultra hi-tech security installation, and pretty much wiping out all of Caan's minions with his mega-weapons. There's little else to the plot.
The problem with 'Eraser' is that its characters are utterly generic. The Kruger character lacks any real emotional dimension, neither matching such past Schwarzenegger rugged men-on-the-run as Douglas Quaid from 'Total Recall' or Harry Tasker in 'True Lies' nor holding his own as the legitimate lead of an action movie. Williams' Cullen is attractive and likable, but her character is also forgettable, failing to generate any real chemistry with Schwarzenegger or proving at all instrumental in furthering the plot. And Caan seems to be cashing a paycheck as the duplicitous U.S. Marshal Robert Deguerin, with the actor using every one of his stock, hammy mannerisms to sell what amounts to a third-rate James Bond villain.
The film's main conceit is also poorly executed. The idea of "erasing" identities remains topical, yet the movie never does anything interesting with it -- it's simply a device to launch Schwarzenegger into a series of standard action setpieces. Sure, some of these scenes are fun, but their also rote. Director Chuck Russell does keep the pace moving, but his visual style lacks flair, so the whole film feels like it was shot entirely by the second unit. Even the film's best sequence involving Schwarzenegger and a gaggle of alligators is hampered by dated CGI.
None of this is to say that 'Eraser' is unwatchable. It's just mediocre. Schwarzenegger seemed to lack direction later in his career, and after such well-chosen fare as 'Terminator,' 'True Lies' and 'Predator,' he floundered by picking weak material such as this. 'Eraser' is perfectly adequate as time filler, but it rates as little more than a footnote in the Schwarzenegger canon.
'Eraser' was one of Warner's earliest DVD releases, a bare-bones disc that offered good video for its time but that is now quite dated. This 1080p/VC-1 encode (2.40:1) is spread across a BD-25 single-layer disc, and does not offer any sort of radical remaster but only a decent bump-up over the previous standard-def DVD.
The source has held up fine in the past ten years or so. There are no major blemishes, and grain is minimal. Colors are also nicely saturated, though they appear a tad too overdone at times, which flattens out detail and can plug up fleshtones. Black levels are spot on, and there is a generally realistic appearance thanks to smooth contrast. The transfer is not all that sharp, however, or particularly detailed. There is a decent amount of depth in some shots, while others are more hazy. Shadow delineation is also fine, if not superior. There are no major problems with the encode, so the at least this is a smooth-looking transfer. Just don't expect a new demo disc.
A decade ago, 'Eraser' sounded like the best soundtrack you'd be likely to find on home video. It doesn't quite come across the same way today, even with Warner providing a new Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround (48kHz/16-bit) upgrade. This is a good soundtrack, if slightly dated.
Dynamic range doesn't feel particularly expanded versus the old DVD (which sported a standard Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround track). Highs lack the punch of a modern mix, while low bass never truly extends to the deepest tones. Surrounds are sporadically engaged with bursts of discrete effects, but never create a fully-immersive experience. There is some effective atmosphere, but again it's never sustained. The mix is clean, however, with nice dialogue localization to the center channel. 'Eraser' sounds fine for a catalog remaster.
Warner provides not a single extra for 'Eraser,' not even a trailer. However, the previous DVD was bare-bones too, so I guess there's little room to complain.
'Eraser' is pretty standard-issue Arnold Schwarzenegger. The plot, the action and the heroine are largely unmemorable, so don't expect to remember this one five minutes after you turn it off. This Blu-ray is fine, with a decent transfer and soundtrack, but not a whiff of extras. Overpriced at $28.99, this is for the bargain bin or rental counter only (editor's note, Amazon is currently selling this for $13.95).