The Direct to Video Connoisseur
I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.
Monday, February 9, 2015
A while back Jamie and I were looking at films to review for the podcast, and she mentioned being a fan of Aaron Eckhart. I kind of like him myself, so when I saw this on Instant, I figured it would be a good deal for both of us. Let's see if I was right.
Erased has Eckhart living in Belgium with his teen daughter and working for a security firm. He also used to work for the CIA. This CIA training comes in handy when his employer decides to erase all record of him being employed with the company, and then tries to kill him. Now he needs to protect his daughter and unravel the mystery of why his employers have done this to him.
This wasn't bad. It's a little long at 100 minutes, and that extra ten or so from my usual 90 shows itself in a very clear way near the end, when things are dragging on a bit more than they should. We also finish with a beautiful airport reunion scene that feels a little like "really, you're going here?" Beyond that though, Eckhart turns in a great performance as the lead, and Liana Liberato and Olga Kurylenko are good as his daughter and former CIA partner respectively. What I love most is how Eckhart exudes his American-ness in this most European of countries, and the clash makes for great drama on top of the already packed drama of the plot. Overall, this is a fun suspense actioner, and a good way to kill 100 minutes.
As I said, I am a fan of Eckhart. My personal favorite of his was Rabbit Hole, which also starred Nicole Kidman. As I said above, he exudes a certain American-ness that really works in the dynamic of "American struggling abroad", and all of his lantern-jawed, hearty, rugged individualism plays so well in Antwerp and Brussels, these most European of cities. Eckhart would be on your short-list of actors to play Captain America, but he also has this vibe that you could see Hemingway basing a 1920s novel set in Paris around him, and you see it in the way he deals with the authorities and people trying to kill him throughout the film. I liked it, and it made him someone you could root for, not in a "USA, USA!" kind of obnoxious sense, but in a "he's just a good guy" kind of sense.
What's interesting about these kind of spy-thriller type deals, is that after James Bond, there's this idea that you can cast anyone to play them, and we'll buy it. Now after Matt Damon in the Bourne films, it's even more so, but for me, this film really shows the limitations of that concept, because Eckhart really works, and I think it's necessary to know that you can't just use any one and expect it to work. For example, let's take Sean Connery as James Bond. You could replace him with one of the guys who played Doctor Who, and do all the editing and jumpcuts you want to make us believe that that guy is really kicking ass, but Connery has a certain charisma that's required to pull the whole thing off. The same is true here with Eckhart. Yes, if you cast Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg, or Liam Neeson, the film probably makes it into Hollywood and a wide theatrical release here in the States-- plus probably an additional 20 minutes added onto the already stretched runtime-- but it's not the same as getting a guy like Eckhart who really looks and feels the part.
I mentioned above about that dynamic of Eckhart versus Europe that the film had, and one area where it worked was in his two co-stars. The teen daughter, Liana Liberato, really had the feel of someone who had assimilated into European life, and perhaps even a kind of European cosmopolitanism. The former partner, Olga Kurylenko, of course is European, and thus brings that sensibility with her automatically. Eckhart is juxtaposed with them in a way that lets us see just how American he is, to the point where he may not say "Freedom Fries", but he's going to let you know what "football" means to him-- a sport where people seldom use their feet to kick the ball, despite the name. Go Pats!
Finally, Jamie and I have a running theme in the podcasts where I call attention to film makers who show a blatant disregard for the lives of people in the medical field, and this film might have been the worst offender. In one scene, a paid assassin finds Eckhart and his daughter in a hospital, and hunts them down while Eckhart tries to both fight back and protect his daughter. All the while, we are seeing doctors, nurses, housekeeping, kitchen help-- all but the pharmaceutical reps, because you know they know to hide when the shooting starts-- getting hit by stray bullets. This was like a national tragedy in Belgium the body count was so high. Hey, I like a good kill count in an actioner just as much as the next guy, but come on. Some of these people are working 16 hour shifts, under the most stressful conditions, and now they gotta deal with getting shot by a stray bullet as well?
As always, once the rant starts, it's time to close up shop. This is no longer on Instant, but if it comes back, or you see it on TV, it's not a bad time killer. Eckhart is fun in all his lantern-jawed goodness taking it to the Belgians. What more can you ask for? And remember, you can check us out live every Wednesday from 8-9 EDT at www.mixlr.com/2nd-unit, and can download the podcasts after on the archive page here on the site; or on iTunes, just type in DTVC Podcast and subscribe.
For the Erased episode, click here, and select "Save link as".
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1645155/