'Erased' never sketches in decent villain for Eckhart

2013-05-16T00:00:00Z 'Erased' never sketches in decent villain for EckhartRoger Moore Mcclatchy-tribune News Service Arizona Daily Star

Just once, it'd be nice if the couple fleeing from a trigger-happy hit man through, say, a crowded hospital, would yell out - "Run for your lives!" And if the hospital's in Belgium, say, it'd be nice for them to yell it in French.

"Erased" has such a scene, where Aaron Eckhart, as a security contractor whose company, bank records and recent history have been "erased," is fleeing with his daughter (Liana Liberato). And you can't help but feel for the innocent doctors, nurses and patients on gurneys who catch a bullet during the mayhem. Don't they deserve a warning?

"Erased" is a run-of-the-mill "Bourne" imitation in which covert operatives are desperate to tidy up a scheme in which American expat Ben Logan may be the only witness. It's an exposition-heavy thriller with that generic Euro-thriller blue-grey color palette and duller-than-grey villains, all chasing the good guy and his daughter through scenic Brussels and Antwerp, Belgium.

What Colin Farrell said about Bruges during "In Bruges" leaps to mind during the travelogue moments.

We've seen the scars on Ben's back. We know he's reluctant to use Liam Neeson's line from "Taken," announcing he has very "particular skills." But he does. His bratty teen daughter Amy is slow to catch on.

"You can kill a man with your bare hands," Amy shouts. He can speak languages she's never heard, evade security cameras in a crowded train station - "Corners are safe."

"What kind of father can do these things?"

One with very particular skills, of course.

There's a staggering amount of plot to be explained, which greatly slows down this chase picture which takes father-and-daughter into a high-stakes arms smuggling and a Belgian underworld of illegal Middle Eastern immigrants. Yassine Fadel engagingly plays a would-be boyfriend of Amy who is their guide into this world.

And every so often, Euro-trash shooters with silenced pistols gun down a bunch of people as Ben ably fights and thinks his way through all this. Not that Amy knows when to duck.

"Just a flesh wound," goes the favored cliche of weary thriller writers. Rare moments remind us that director Philipp Stolzl ("North Face," "Young Goethe in Love") has done better work, but not in thrillers.

Eckhart is in fine form, but apparently they blew all their euros on him. Hitchcock's worn maxim that "Good villains make good thrillers" was ignored here, with only the pretty but slight Olga Kurylenko to provide name-recognition menace.

Nobody else leaves an impression. The other baddies are just as faceless as those Belgian bystanders mowed down because nobody has the good manners to yell "Run!"

review

Erased

**

• Rated: R for violence.

• Director: Philipp Stolzl.

• Cast: Aaron Eckhart, Liana Liberato, Olga Kurylenko, Neil Napier, Yassine Fadel.

• Running time: 104 minutes.

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