Eraser (1996)

Eraser (1996)- * * *1\2

Directed by: Chuck Russell

Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Vanessa Williams, James Caan, Andy Romano, James Cromwell, Robert Pasterelli, Patrick Kilpatrick, Roma Maffia, and James Coburn

U.S. Marshal John Kruger (Arnie, who is credited simply as “Eraser” in the end credits) is...an eraser, a man who works for WITSEC, or “Witness Security”, erasing the identities of people in the Witness Relocation Program so baddies won’t find them and kill them. 

No one is better than Kruger at what he does, but he faces his toughest challenge yet when he’s assigned to protect Lee Cullen (Williams), a woman on the run. After working with the FBI on a sting operation involving illegal gunrunning  - especially as it relates to a high-tech new EMP gun - now all sorts of bad guys are after her, from corrupt U.S. bureaucrats to the Russian Mafia. (Not to be confused with Roma Maffia, who’s in the movie). Kruger’s rival is his former compatriot DeGuerin (Caan), who is a formidable nemesis, but Kruger’s got plenty of tricks up his sleeve besides erasing people, as we’ll clearly see. Will DeGuerin and the other baddies get ERASED...permanently?

Eraser is probably one of the last, best Arnold movies. It’s a fitting way to unofficially wrap up the “Golden Age” of his career of the 80’s and 90’s, because the movie is pure Hollywood ridiculous action in true Schwarzenegger style. It truly is an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, a genre unto itself, if that makes any sense. You pretty much have to love it. It’s nice to see a younger, thinner, more agile Arnie, along with his unmistakable voice. Of course, he gets many classic one-liners to cap off many sequences. 

The fact that Kruger is supposed to be a U.S. Marshal, but becomes an unkillable superhero who for all intents and purposes can fly and survive grievous injuries with ease, is an oversight of the best kind, something the audience has to go with and couldn’t do without, unless they wanted a much less entertaining movie.

The whole thing is very 90’s, with classic computers, including the very-new “Internet”, and some now-vintage cell phones. The technology even helps Kruger with his job, stating on the screen “Prepare to Erase”. But whether tiny budget or huge budget, action movies of the day had one thing in common: people after “the disc”, in this case what appears to be some more hot technology, Minidisc. Someone always wants that darn disc. But you KNOW the action isn’t taking place in the present time because James Caan smokes indoors in government buildings. That’s the ultimate no-no. Only a true bad guy would do that.

Besides Caan, we also have Vanessa Williams, who confronts James Cromwell, stating to him that at the Cyrez Corporation, “treason is part of the corporate strategy!” - which sounds like a perfect ad tagline for them. Williams has had a long and storied career, but is only really relevant to fans of this site as co-star of Under the Gun (1988) with Sam Jones. So, between this and that, her action pedigree is surprising and pretty respectable. 

While we often joke about the star singing the end credits song (like we’ve done for Jerry Trimble, etc.), in this case, Williams actually does, because this is a Hollywood production, after all, and they can get high-caliber talent. There is another rockin’ tune that plays after the movie, which we suspect is Trevor Rabin’s “Caught a Train”, but we’re not sure. As far as the soundtrack itself, there are those wailin’ guitar squeals heard often, which we liked because we thought it was a throwback to the 80’s.

Watch out for a cameo from Sven-Ole Thorsen towards the end of the movie, uncredited, as a Russian thug. Evidently, he and Arnie are buddies. Arnie should have advised him against being in Fatal Combat (1997). Another familiar face for us who turned up briefly was Patrick Kilpatrick, which helped to seal Eraser’s connection to other action movies of the day. 

We also liked seeing James Coburn, if it was a pretty small role, but in a movie filled with actors with distinctive voices (i.e. Arnold and Caan), he stood out. Pastorelli added energy as Arnold’s sidekick, and full marks go to one Andy Romano, who played Undersecretary of Defense Daniel Harper. Romano is one of those character actors that has been in tons of stuff, but gets little acclaim or recognition. We try to celebrate these people, especially when they shine, and here he certainly does as one of DeGuerin’s partners in crime.

If what we’ve read is true, Eraser was a troubled production with many problems along the road to completion. It’s one of those situations where there are many writers and people have to be brought in to do tons of rewrites. Maybe it’s because some Law & Order people started the script, or heavyweights like Frank Darabont and even John Milius came in to polish things up, but, from a viewer’s perspective, you really can’t tell.  Nor should you.  The whole thing is improbable enough - any behind the scenes flaws are papered over invisibly to us. Eraser is classic, big-budget, Arnie Action All the Way - call us old-fashioned, but we really enjoyed it.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett 


Karate Warrior 2 (1988)

Karate Warrior 2 (1988)- *1\2

Directed by: Fabrizio De Angelis

Starring: Kim Stuart, Amy Lynn Baxter, Ken Watanabe, Christopher Alan, Winston Haynes, Bryan Guerrieri, Tommy Bull, and Ted Prior

When last we heard from Anthony Scott (Stuart), he defeated his arch-rival Quino and rode off into the sunset (well, lotus-positioned off into the sunset if you want to get specific). Now living in Miami, Florida, Scott is somehow accepted into college.

 He makes friends with an enthusiastic guy named Luke Morris (Haynes), who looks, by turns, like either a young Rick Santorum sans the sweatervest or a young Marc Summers sans the crippling OCD. Anthony soon runs afoul of a group of college bullies - COLLEGE BULLIES - called The Tigers, led by a guy named...Dick (Alan). Once Anthony starts seeing Dick’s #1 chick, Patty (Baxter), Dick gets mad and wants to take his bullying to the next level. 

Anthony refuses to fight Dick outside of an officially-sanctioned bout, so they take to the stage of the college to have it out. After Dick is bested in the match, he gets really mad and calls in the original head of The Tigers, a sort of “Bully patient zero” named Mark Sanders (Prior). Because Sanders is so tough, Master Kimura (Watanabe) flies to America from rural Asia for the first time ever. But will it be enough for Anthony to be victorious?

Our old buddy Anthony Scott returns in this unnecessary sequel that is, possibly, stupider than the first entry. For a movie that doesn’t need to exist, extending the running time to a punishing 97 minutes is simply taxing the goodwill of the audience a bit TOO much. 

Anthony Scott is still not likable, thereby erasing any chance for the sequel to improve upon what came before and justify its existence. He does get beat up a lot though, and other characters are constantly hoping to “teach him a lesson”. As referenced in the first film, we know Anthony Scott is true-blue American (with the mismatched voice of a 67-year-old American to prove it) because when he gets hungry, he requests, and we quote, “Hot dogs, hamburgers, or rib food.” RIB FOOD? What in the name of Larry Ludman is THAT? We may never know...

But his buddy Luke subsists solely on champagne and caviar, presumably fitting the definition of what people from other countries think Americans eat and drink every day. Luke warns Anthony against taking rides from strangers by saying “Haven’t you seen that movie The Hitcher?”, which we thought was an interesting reference, and he describes The Tigers as a “gang of delinquent Karate fanatics”. Said fanatics are so badass, they hang out at the local ice cream shoppe (and it IS a shoppe) and plot their evil deeds under Ben & Jerry’s banners. Their malevolent attitudes drip off them like so much Chunky Monkey.

For both the matches with Dick and Sanders, a simple stage like you’d see in any school gym is used. Not a ring. It’s also announced on the radio and the DJ looks like a young Johnny Depp. IMPORTANT NOTE: there is not just one, but TWO chicken mascots at the first bout. At the second match-up, people in horse suits and tiger suits also are seen. This is the most puzzling development since rib food. What the HELL is going on? Unfortunately, none of this sustains or justifies a 97 minute running time. This movie is just too damn long.

For a glimpse into the acid-washed late-80’s and to see a young Amy Lynn Baxter, Karate Warrior 2 could almost suffice...but the songs by a band named Glasswork aren’t as good as the Simon Boswell score of the original, and Ted Prior in a non-AIP role could have been more prominent. Adding more insult to injury, fan favorite 

Jeff Moldovan did stunts but did not appear in front of the camera. He’s also credited as Jeff “Maldovan” - whether that’s a misspelling or intentional to help himself avoid being associated with this is not known.  It all ends on a freeze frame, which is normally a good thing, but the frame it freezes on is just odd and doesn’t chime with the rest of what we’ve just seen. But, then again, maybe that’s appropriate, as none of it made much sense to begin with. And not in a good way.

Perhaps all this, plus the fact that it’s all pretty darn juvenile, is what prevented it from ever securing a U.S. release. It seems only Italy and Japan have ever (officially) had the pleasure. Well, we’re here to announce that the rest of the world isn’t missing all that much. And the two chicken mascots never even fight, which would have been awesome.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty 


Karate Warrior (1987)

Karate Warrior (1987)- * *

Directed by: Fabrizio De Angelis

Starring: Kim Stuart, Ken Watanabe, Jared Martin, Janet Agren, Enrico Torralba, and Jannelle Barretto

Anthony Scott (Stuart) is an American teen who goes to the Philippines to visit his father, Paul (Martin) (credited, in classic ‘lost in translation’ style, as “Anthony father”), a journalist currently living there. After a lot of bonding time with Anthony father, Anthony runs afoul of local gangster Quino (Enrico Torralba), who also happens to be a Karate master. 

Quino and his thugs are even involved in a protection racket with the store owned by the father of Anthony’s love interest, Maria (Jannelle Barretto). Eventually, Quino beats up Anthony and leaves him in the forest. He is then found, and nursed back to health, by reclusive monk Kimura (Watanabe). Master Kimura also goes through great pains to teach Anthony Martial Arts (mainly because Anthony complains and resists most of the time) - but will he learn the “Dragon Blow” in time for the big tournament - the face-off with Quino? Find out, at some point...

Karate Warrior is a very earnest and straight-ahead film that seems like it’s simultaneously trying to be like the Karate Kid movies and at the same time trying NOT to be like them. One of the main problems is that our hero (?), Anthony, is very whiny and not too likable. Only the gaffes provided by the unintentionally funny dubbing give him any likability. He does have a classic 80’s “Cool” look, but that’s about it. (Maybe it was the “hair stilist”, another misspelled credit, who helped him look so cool).

When Anthony arrives in Manila, after getting a ride from the time-honored Wacky Taxi Driver, a bunch of punks beat him up and steal his Walkman. Not a good start. He was only asking around trying to find where his dad lives, a town apparently called Los Banos (if my high school Spanish is correct, doesn’t that mean “The Bathrooms”?), but he quickly runs into arch-baddie Quino, not to be confused with Kimo or Beano. Why his dad didn’t pick him up at the airport, like he did when his mom Julia (Agren) arrived, we don’t know. Maybe that’s why they were estranged from each other.

After a motorbike chase and Anthony gets beat up by Quino, we go into the extensive forest training sequence we’ve seen many, many times before. Master Kimura yells at Anthony to RELAX NOW! That seems kind of counterintuitive, but maybe it’s all part of Kimura’s plan to deal with this whiny brat. 

There is no pounding, inspirational song during the training, which would have helped a lot, but the Simon Boswell music overall is catchy and stands out as being good. Also, we should mention that at this point Anthony hasn’t been wearing a shirt for a decent chunk of the movie’s running time. How can you have a protracted, shirtless training program and no song? That being said, the “Ha-do-ken”-type move, the Dragon Blow, is very cool and the movie should have gone more in that direction. Presumably the audience hopes Anthony will figure out how to use said blow at The Battle of the Karate Champions, the big tournament in town, which does look very well-attended. They also have fireworks after people get beat to a pulp.

Director Fabrizio De Angelis, AKA our good old pal Larry Ludman, turns in a kind of workmanlike product here. It could have used more action and less whining - the whole thing is so darn slow. Sidestepping some of the cliches might have been nice too, but we can’t ask for a miracle. Released on Imperial Video back in the VHS days, this does seem to fit with a lot of their other output. But they did not release Karate Warrior 2, or any of the many other Karate Warrior sequels...we wonder why

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty