Erased (2013) - Can't Stop the Movies
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Erased (2013)

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Regular dude neck snappingAndrew DISLIKE BannerWhen I first fell into Aaron Eckhart's icy charms with Neil Labute's In the Company of Men it seemed like he would have a great career trafficking in the kind of flair Hollywood had in the '40s.  By the time he was wowing audiences in Thank You For Smoking I felt as though he had finally arrived to the big time.  Time is harsh teacher.  Eckhart is a great actor who, I've come to accept, is never going to have the kind of constant public presence I'd love for him to have.

His presence in Erased is proof of this.  It's the kind of forgettable thriller that would better serve the paycheck to paycheck means of someone like Christian Slater (who was in a superior, if still derivative, thriller reviewed earlier this week).  Eckhart's resume is now littered with these low quality films that have a whiff of their genre and little more.  For every Thank You For Smoking he seems indebted to star in a No Reservations.  For The Dark Knight, we get Erased.

Bland upon bland - the film takes a detour to a photojournalism competition and these shots are what win the prize.

Bland upon bland - the film takes a detour to a photojournalism competition and these shots are what win the prize.

Erased may also be known by its other worldwide title The Expatriate.  As a rule, I'm suspicious of English language films that get released elsewhere in the world months before American cinemas get a crack at it.  I'm further weary of films that have their title changed for no reason.  Either Erased or The Expatriate would do just fine given the plot but if the title is changed because the average moviegoer won't know what expatriate means then the confidence sinks to a complete low.

Eckhart's role in the film is so poorly established in the first act that it's easier to focus on the twist of his character instead of the mystery surrounding him.  He is Ben Logan, an engineer hired by a company to test the security mechanism of a system that's advertised as fool-proof.  When not playing physical hacker to these vaults he has a tense relationship with his daughter, Amy (Liana Liberato), because he and his wife became separated some time ago.  The screenplay leads us to this information by peppering all of their reactions with "Mom didn't do that" anytime Amy disagrees with one of Ben's choices.

Redundant dialogue is the least of the films problems when the plot proper kicks in as Ben takes his daughter to work and discovers something amiss.  What this is I'll leave you to discover should you still find yourself watching this, but it is the one nice twist that the film has.  Eckhart's skill as an actor is in full bloom during this surprise where he wanders around with the most wonderful gobsmacked look on his face with just the right amount of stutter and signs that his brain is trying to piece together what happened.  The scene and his performance got a good chuckle out of me and gave some hope that the film would proceed along with a couple more unexpected twists.

I wonder if the employees of this hospital question the depressing decor or just shamble to work and go with it.

I wonder if the employees of this hospital question the depressing decor or just shamble to work and go with it.

This did not happen.  Shortly afterward we're thrust into an espionage tale that would have been trite in the later seasons of Mission Impossible.  Various agencies are playing against one another, evil corporations are up to their normal shenanigans, people have super killing powers at a moment's notice, and the film goes along at a clip you can set your watch to.  There are no more delightful surprises, just the usual cloak and dagger routine broken up with some blood.

Director Philipp Stolzl can't find a way to make the film look that interesting either.  The color palette alone, which runs the gamut from metallic blue to dark blue, reminds me of when every horror film or technothriller had to have the same tint.  His action scenes are about as boring with no fun or flair as each participant just hits the other until they go down.  But credit due for a hostage situation early in a car that takes place early on which is just different enough to give credence to the "normal guy in over his head" scenario that Erased toys with in the beginning.

Still, the movies goes back to the boring path and ends with a series of tensionless standoffs and the same old threats.  Eckhart, always the professional, gets through with his talent intact but serves as another reminder that he could be doing so much more.

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Erased - TailErased (2013)

Directed by Philipp Stolzl.
Screenplay written by Arash Amel.
Starring Aaron Eckhart and Liana Liberato.

Posted by Andrew

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