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Indie Snapshot: Erased

by Ethan Alter May 17, 2013 6:00 am
Indie Snapshot: <i>Erased</i>

Had Jeremy Renner not suddenly become Hollywood's go-to utility franchise player in the past few years, it's easy to imagine Aaron Eckhart taking over the Bourne series once Matt Damon decided to move on to greener pastures. Where Renner is an innately more volatile screen presence, Eckhart has the same contrast between his placid, matinee idol exterior and inner action hero that made Damon's Jason Bourne so relatable. Eckhart must have realized the missed opportunity, given that his new thriller Erased is essentially Bourne-lite, sending the star's ex-CIA alter ego on a cross-country race through Europe as his Agency past nips at his heels.

While the Bourne movies are the primary inspiration for Erased, this European-backed production helmed by German director Philipp Stölzl and written by Arash Amel also borrows elements from two other well-known spy-themed action flicks, Three Days of the Condor and Taken. The former is referenced early on in Erased, when seemingly ordinary single dad Ben Logan (Eckhart) brings his daughter Amy (Liana Liberato) to the security firm where he works, only to discover a completely empty office. Worse still, his own identity seems to have been deleted from the company's records, leaving him with limited resources (like money and e-mail) as he attempts to piece together what happened while keeping Amy safe. Since his kid is no dummy, she quickly realizes there's more to Pops than meets the eye and, backed into a corner, he eventually confesses that he's a former Agency spook with superb fighting skills and a lot of enemies amongst his old employers... enemies like the duplicitous Anna (Olga Kurylenko), who played a role in his office's mass vanishing. Once she's served her use as an exposition device, Amy then becomes the requisite hostage who her daddy has to rescue Liam Neeson-style from a well-armed, but easily-fooled crime syndicate of sleazy Euro-baddies.

Although Erased goes through the motions of its various spy games efficiently enough, you never completely forget that you're watching an imitation of far better movies. That feeling of overwhelming familiarity extends to Stölzl's flat direction, which is so focused on aping Frankenheimer, Lumet and Taken's Pierre Morel (who isn't any great shakes as a visual stylist either) that he never develops his own personality. As for Eckhart, he's far more effective as the lone wolf operative in the movie's first half than the bad-ass dad who takes over midway through. But then, the actor has always suffered from a chemistry deficiency with the women in his onscreen life, whether they're playing his daughter or his lover. (It's one of the big things that's always held him back from big-time movie stardom... that and his frequently crappy taste in mainstream studio vehicles. Battle Los Angeles, anyone?) That's why a post-Bourne Supremacy Jason Bourne type would have been Eckhart's ideal spy role... someone who has loved and lost and is now really, really pissed off about it.Erased isn't the kind of embarrassment he'd be better off erasing from his filmography, but it isn't going to bring him any closer to a role in the next Bourne outing, either.

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