Picks and Pans Review: Eraser

updated 07/01/1996 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/01/1996 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Arnold Schwarzenegger, Vanessa Williams, James Caan, James Coburn

Dozens of explosions! A cutie pie in distress! Evil Russians! Bad guys who can't hit the broad side of a continent even with laser-guided exotic weaponry! Schwarzenegger snarling bons mots! Eraser is the kind of mindless, hyperkinetic, blood-soaked action movie that made the '80s the hotbed of aesthetic achievement they were.

Eraser's biggest problem is a lazy, juvenile script by Tony Puryear and Walon Green, who use dumb obscenities to fill in their many lapses in imagination. There is only one funny line, in fact: After Arnold shoots a rampaging alligator during a gun battle in a zoo's reptile house, he sneers at the animal's carcass, "You're luggage!"

Schwarzenegger plays a star agent for the federal witness protection program. He specializes in protecting witnesses who are assuming new identities and helping them "erase" evidence of their old selves. When he meets Williams, a corporate exec blowing the whistle on a treasonous defense contractor, he has to shield her not only from the contractor but from turncoats within his own program who want to blow her away.

Caan, as Schwarzenegger's mentor, and Coburn, as their taciturn boss, lend sturdy presences, and Murphy Brown doormat Robert Pastorelli is funny as a mobster under Arnold's protection. The most fun, however, comes from Eraser's flashy stunts, many performed by Schwarzenegger himself, and also from its hardware, especially a revolutionary assault gun with an X-ray scope. Williams, meanwhile, is a lively and substantial as well as decorative presence. Never will Eraser challenge anyone's intellect, but neither will it ever put anyone to sleep. (R)

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