Its safe to say that at this point in our culture, action films have become the most popular genre in film today, with most of the biggest blockbuster films deriving from some sort of action sub-genre, such as superheroes and disaster films, and it’s no surprise why. Action films offer a level of excitement and rush to audiences that they can rarely get with any other film genre. Personally, though, I am far more interested in the action scene that is happening at a much smaller scale, On Demand and VOD (Video On Demand).
Ever since both broke on the scene a few years ago as ways to release smaller indie films, On Demand and VOD have been great ways to view smaller movies that never would have the chance to be seen by most audiences. Such as great films like Your Sister’s Sister, Liberal Arts, and maybe the biggest success of this platform, Arbitrage, which not only became a hit, but a player in the award season. Not only is the format for indie films, but foreign films, like Erased.
Titled as The Expatriate in other countries, Erased was released in Belgium and other countries in September, but has now finally reached the U.S. Erased has also found success before it has even been released, making it into the Top 10 of iTunes an impressive four times, and also being a hit in the UK as well through the same type of release. Although, the movie has failed to find the same critical success, with the movie as of now scoring a lackluster 22% on RottenTomatoes. Despite these bad reviews, Erased was a solid flick.
Erased follows Ben Logan (Aaron Eckhart), an every-man worker who is finds himself erased from the world and marked as part of an international conspiracy. Along with his daughter Amy (Liana Liberato), Logan finds himself on the run, trying to keep his daughter and himself safe.
Erased works because it nails down what an action movie truly should have. What is most essential is having good characters, and this film pulls that task off. Aaron Eckhart is one of the most underrated actors around, he gives consistently solid performances but without much publicity. Here, Eckhart does the same, bringing the same likability and conviction that he usually does, and its nice to see him playing more of a down to earth character, rather than performances like the President in Olympus Has Fallen.
Staring along side him is Liana Liberato, who is a rather promising up and coming actress after her tragic performance in the great indie Trust, and she continues to grow with her work in this film. Here, she is basically given a rather by-the-numbers character, but gives that cliche a lot more depth and realism. Liberato and Eckhart have great chemistry together as a believable father-daughter relationship, and give Erased a much needed emotional core.
The action in here is solid and knows its own intentions. With only a 15 million dollar budget, there may have not been much to work with, but the film knows this and uses its to its advantage. The action, instead of using big CGI sequences, uses far more hard-hitting action moments, giving the film a far more realistic feel to it. The action scenes in here are not only realistic, but well choreographed and filmed. The film doesn’t have many action moments, but there are enough to feel satisfied, and the action moments come at the right time.
Steering the ship in the director’s chair is German director Phillip Stolzl, and he brings a great deal of professionalism to this film. Stolzl manages the film well, keeping it moving at a nice pace and along with his longtime cinematographer Kolja Brandt, captures the mood with some skillfully done shots. His presence as a director was much needed for this film, and hopefully we get to to see more of Stolzl’s direction in the future.
Where this movie falls apart is its screenplay. Written by Arash Amel, this debut script by Amel is devoid of any real inspiration or effort, and instead feels lazy on almost every level, and this guy is sadly supposedly writing I am Legend 2.
Amel fails to really keep a direction of who these characters are and what is happening, which leads to alot of the story coming off as convoluted. It’s not that the movie is convoluted, it’s just that the movie is over-stuffed with plot points and characters, which almost overpowers the great simplicity of its emotional core.
Where Erased suffers most is how familiar all of its elements are. This story is basically a mix between Taken and any other government conspiracy type thriller. While most action movie plots are simple and nothing that new, it’s all about how these movies present these plot points, with some of the best action flicks having simple and familiar plots, but giving a fresh face to the familiar. Erased really has a hard time with these moments.
The movie also suffers when it cuts away from Logan’s chase. A few scenes with the incredibly bland former Bond girl Olga Kurylenko do little but try to add more complexion, but just fall flat.
While overly-familiar and bland in the story department, Erased establishes strong characters and is an enjoyable ride throughout.
Take a Drink: whenever Kurylenko is on screen; it’s the only way to get through her scenes
Take a Drink: Whenever a character bursts into a full blown sprint
Take a Shot: at the film’s poorly done make-up. Seriously, only a cut after a serious car crash!