Erased Dir. Philipp Stölzl

[The Weinstein Company; 2013]

Styles: action thriller
Others: Frantic, Taken, Abduction, Haywire, Red

Ben Logan (Aaron Eckhart) works for a Belgium-based subsidiary of a huge American corporation that designs and manufactures security systems, among other things. But this guy’s hiding something: before he puts on his white dress shirt in the morning, we see that his back is latticed with scar tissue. Sure enough, his past comes back to haunt him when someone murders everyone in his office. He was supposed to have been killed, too, but failing that, the bad guys have instead wiped out all traces of his identity, forcing him to go on the run with his teenaged daughter Amy (Liana Liberato) while trying to prove not only his innocence, but also his very existence.

Eckhart, who established himself playing douchebags in indies, has recently taken advantage of his looks to test-drive some action-hero roles (Battle: Los Angeles, Olympus Has Fallen). He may lack the intense magnetism of Harrison Ford or Liam Neeson, but he has the presence to carry this film. Even better is Liberato, a real natural and someone to watch. Their early scenes together spend just enough time making us care about these characters before hurling them into harm’s way. The contrast between the black-ops dad and his fragile daughter, with her food allergies and photo essays, is made amusingly literal by Eckhart’s square jaw and Liberato’s round face. Olga Kurylenko (currently seen in To the Wonder and Oblivion), on the other hand, seems bored with her pivotal but underwritten role.

Erased recalls a number of recent paranoid thrillers, especially (speaking of Liam Neeson) the Taken franchise, with its Western European setting and father-daughter dynamic. But it stops short of those films’ gonzo sadism and xenophobic button-pushing and instead hints at social consciousness, touching on the plight of immigrants and the abuses of (American-led) multinational conglomerates. There are, unfortunately, a few too many twists in the conspiracy Logan has to unravel — the middle of the film bogs down in exposition — and not enough in the immediate, life-threatening challenges he has to face. The finale, in particular, goes a little too smoothly to be satisfying. But most of the time, Erased moves swiftly enough to make its inevitable implausibilities and clichés endearing rather than annoying. If you enjoy the kind of movie where each new location is typed out at the bottom of the screen, accompanied by a clicking keyboard sound effect, Erased will keep you entertained.

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