This not-so-thrilling espionage thriller begins, like half the thrillers these days, with a bank robbery. The scene shifts from a safe deposit box in Belgium to the global affairs department at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. It is never clear what one thing has to do with the other, and it is even foggier what Erased has to do with anything else.
In this daffy generic rip-off of the Jason Bourne franchise cross-pollinated with the daughter-in-peril plot from Taken, Aaron Eckhart plays Ben Logan, an ex-CIA agent who used to be a trained assassin, now starting a new life as an expatriate in Antwerp, working for a multinational corporation that specializes in high-tech security (don’t they all?). He is also saddled with an estranged 15-year-old daughter to raise. Precocious and sassy, Amy (Liana Liberato) has come to live with him. Oblivious to the demands of fatherhood and distracted by his job and his endless supply of technological toys, he barely has time to feed her anything but cookies, which send her to the hospital due to a peanut allergy. Then, with no advance warning, his company vanishes into thin air, the office disappears, the phone numbers are invalid, the bank accounts are closed and there is no record of his employment. At the morgue, he finds all of his co-workers in body bags. Meanwhile, Ben and his daughter Amy go on the lam, hunted down by the men who ran the fake company, which turns out to have been a cover-up for the shipment of American-made weapons of mass destruction to … Mozambique. Huh? It gets dopier.
As long as Ben is the only member of the phony corporation still alive, the killers will stop at nothing to ice him. An ex-lover and rogue CIA operative named Anna (Olga Kurylenko, the catatonic wife in Terrence Malick’s valium overdose To The Wonder) arrives to inform Ben that the same people he used to work for in the CIA are tracking him too. Father and daughter, now fugitives, are chased through a hospital by a killer who pumps bullets into the patients in the intensive care unit. I never cease to be amazed how Americans who don’t speak the local language have no problem calling the U.S. using complicated telephone dialing codes on cellphones in foreign countries. But even though he has no job, no money, no country, no passport, and unless he thinks fast, no more daughter, he outsmarts everyone at every move, destroying most of Antwerp while maintaining a straight face through dialogue like “I’ll never forget the first day you showed up in Somalia—ready to set the world on fire.”
Nothing in Erased makes much sense. What do the gunrunners want? Why do they need to erase Ben? Why do they kidnap Amy? How can she avoid peanuts if she’s blindfolded? German music video director Philipp Stölzl and writer Arash Amel must have something in mind. “We’re cast from the same cloth—we know what we want and how to get it,” says one of the gunrunners. But nobody lets the rest of us in on it. We don’t know what anybody wants. All we know is that the only sure way to avoid the loss of any more I.Q. points in the world today is to stay away from movies like Erased.
WRITTEN BY Arash Amel
DIRECTED BY Philipp Stölzl
STARRING Aaron Eckhart, Liana Liberato and Olga Kurylenko
RUNNING TIME: 100 mins.
RATING: 1/4 Stars
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