Arnold Week: Eraser (1996)

For some reason, I never watched Eraser. And let me tell you, fifty-year-old me loved it so much that I kept yelling “You’ve been erased” for days after watching it. Maybe that’s because Chuck Russell, who made The Blob and A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors directed it.

Arnold Schwarzenegger is John Kruger, a U.S. Marshal for the Witness Security Protection Program charged with helping to erase people from the public record so that they can be safe once they testify in important court cases. After erasing mob witness Johnny Casteleone (Robert Pastorelli) before he turns rat on the mob, he’s given his next job by WITSEC Chief Arthur Beller (James Coburn): protect Lee Cullen (Vanessa Williams), a senior executive whose defense contractor place of employment, the Cyrez Corporation, has created a handheld rail gun and plans on selling it on the open market instead of to the U.S. military that’s already paid for it.

When she confronts her boss William Donohue (James Cromwell), he threatens her before killing himself. Upset that she was in danger despite promises that she’d be safe, Lee refuses to be part of witness protection. It turns out she’s really going to need it because the Cyrez conspiracy goes deep. In fact, it’s so deep that even Kruger’s superiors like his mentor Robert DeGuerin (James Caan) are masterminding it.

While this was written by Walon Green and Michael S. Chernuchin. extensive and uncredited rewrites were made by Frank Darabont and William Wisher Jr., as well as John Milius who did his punchups as a favor for Schwarzenegger. This was originally offered to Stallone, who turned it down to make Cop Land.

This is a great action film — I mean, Arnold has a battle inside a zoo with alligators everywhere — and it’s livened up by the interplay between him and Caan. Sure, it’s ridiculous, with Arnold using two railguns at once at the end, but isn’t that what we want out of an action film? Bonus points for Pastorelli getting all of his old organized crime friends together to guard the docks and battle the Russian goons.

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