Eraser (film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed byChuck Russell
Screenplay by
Story by
Produced by
CinematographyAdam Greenberg
Edited byMichael Tronick
Music byAlan Silvestri
Kopelson Entertainment
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release dates
  • June 11, 1996 (1996-06-11) (Hollywood)
  • June 21, 1996 (1996-06-21) (United States)
Running time
114 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$100 million[1]
Box office$242.3 million[1]

Eraser is a 1996 American action film directed by Chuck Russell and starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Vanessa Williams, James Caan, James Coburn, and Robert Pastorelli. The film tells the story of a U.S. Marshal of WITSEC who protects a senior operative testifying about an illegal arms deal and is forced to fight his former allies when one of the players is revealed to be a mole inside WITSEC.

Eraser premiered in Hollywood on June 11, 1996 was released in the rest of the United States on June 21, 1996, and was a commercial success, grossing over $242 million against a budget of $100 million. It received mixed reviews from critics, although they praised Williams's and Schwarzenegger's performances, the action sequences and the visual effects. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Sound Effects Editing in 1997, but lost to The Ghost and the Darkness.[2] It was also one of the first major films released on DVD, being part of the Japanese launch lineup of Warner Home Video's debut of the format on December 20, 1996.[3]

A direct-to-video reboot of the film titled Eraser: Reborn starring Dominic Sherwood, was released on June 7, 2022.[4][5]


John Kruger – a top U.S. Marshal for the Witness Security Protection Program (WITSEC) – specializes in "erasing" high-profile witnesses: faking their deaths and giving them new identities. After erasing mobster-turned-informant Johnny Casteleone and his wife, John is given a new assignment by his superior: to protect Lee Cullen, a senior executive at defense contractor Cyrez Corporation. Lee has alerted the FBI that Cyrez executives have secretly financed the creation of an advanced electromagnetic rifle, which they intend to sell on the black market.

During an FBI sting operation, Lee downloads data from the weapon's development onto two discs: one for the FBI and one for herself. Cyrez Vice President William Donohue detects Lee's intrusion and summons her for a meeting. After finding Lee's hidden camera, Donohue commits suicide. Lee delivers the disc but refuses John's offer to go into witness protection, believing the FBI was willing to sacrifice her to nail the conspirators. The FBI's disc is secretly replaced with a fake on the orders of Under Secretary of Defense Daniel Harper, the conspiracy's mastermind.

That night, Lee is attacked by mercenaries sent by Cyrez CEO Eugene Morehart. John rescues Lee and erases her, setting her up in a new identity and keeping her location a secret even from WITSEC. Meanwhile, several witnesses John had previously helped are being murdered due to someone in WITSEC leaking information. The agency is now transferring all protected witnesses to new locations. Accompanied by Marshals Calderon, Schiff, and new recruit Monroe, John helps his old mentor, Marshal Robert DeGuerin, raid a cabin and rescue a witness from a team of assassins. DeGuerin discreetly murders the witness when she overhears one of her captors reveal that he is the mole.

Flying back to DC, DeGuerin drugs John, who manages to warn Lee before losing consciousness. The warning call is traced to New York City and DeGuerin kills Monroe with John's gun, framing him as the mole. Revealing he, Calderon, and Schiff are corrupt, DeGuerin explains that they are the go-betweens for a wealthy buyer who plans to purchase the rifle. John escapes from the plane to rescue Lee from the same mercenaries who tried to kill her before. John and Lee flee through (a fictionalized) New York City Zoo; John releases several alligators to trap and kill the mercenaries.

DeGuerin has John and Lee branded as fugitives. With help from Johnny, John and Lee infiltrate Cyrez Corporation and use Donohue's terminal to decrypt Lee's second disc. The disc reveals that a huge shipment of EM rifles has been stashed at the docks in Baltimore. The buyer is Russian Mafia boss Sergei Ivanovich Petrofsky, who plans to resell the weapons to terrorists. The company detects the intrusion, pinpoints their whereabouts, and remotely erases the disc; DeGuerin then kidnaps Lee and takes her to the docks as the shipment is being loaded onto Petrofsky's Russian-flagged freighter.

Johnny contacts his mobster cousin, Tony Two-Toes, who controls the docks; angered that he's being cut out of the deal, he has his men assist John. They kill Petrofsky, his henchmen, Calderon, and Schiff. In a struggle atop a shipping container, DeGuerin tries to shoot Lee, but John comes to her aid and destroys the pulley system on the container crane, dropping DeGuerin and the container to the ground and exposing the presence of the EM rifles. John secures DeGuerin, leaving him to be detained by the authorities. This proves John and Lee's innocence. Weeks later, DeGuerin, Harper, and Morehart are indicted for treason. However, it quickly becomes clear that without solid evidence, they will likely be acquitted in court. For their safety, John fakes his and Lee's deaths in an explosion.

After being liberated, DeGuerin, Harper and Morehart leave in a limo that stops at a railroad crossing. The driver – a disguised Johnny – locks the doors and exits the vehicle. Seconds later, a massive freight train plows through the car, killing the three men in a staged accident. Lee asks John what happened, to which he responds "They caught a train". They then drive off for a new life.



Development and casting[edit]

Director Chuck Russell and star Arnold Schwarzenegger were originally working on another project together when Eraser was brought to their attention.[6] Russell was excited about the possibilities the film could bring between actor and the character: "I see Arnold the way a lot of people do – as a mythic, bigger-than-life character – and that's who Kruger is. The character and the scenario are based firmly in reality, but I liked the mythic proportions of this man with a strong sense of duty, a strong sense of honor, who will literally do anything to protect a noble witness. I was excited about doing a film that had heroic proportions."[6] Producer Arnold Kopelson was also keen to cast Schwarzenegger in the role of "The Eraser", having talked with the actor about working on projects before.[6] Vanessa Williams would be cast as the lead female character, Lee Cullen, the key witness Eraser must protect. Williams came to the attention of the Kopelsons when Maria Shriver, wife of Arnold Schwarzenegger at the time, suggested her for the role.[6] To play the character of DeGuerin (Kruger's mentor and the main sociopathic antagonist), the filmmakers wanted an actor who could "convey intelligence, skill and magnetism – a more mature version of the Kruger character", and they cast James Caan in this role.[6] Before Caan was officially cast, Jonathan Pryce was also considered for the role.[7] The screenplay was initially the work of Tony Puryear, who had a background in advertising and rap videos. Writers Walon Green and Michael S. Chernuchin had previously worked together on the television drama Law & Order.[8] Extensive, uncredited rewrites were made by Frank Darabont and William Wisher Jr. (Terminator 2: Judgment Day).[9] Additional rewrites were made by John Milius as a favor to Schwarzenegger.[10][11][12] John Pogue also did rewrites on the script, however most of his ideas weren't used.[13]


The "rail-gun" featured in the film as a key plot device, and Schwarzenegger talks on the subject: "We paid a lot of attention to making the audience feel the danger of this weapon, that anyone can be outside of your house, looking right through the walls. It really leaves you nowhere to hide," he explains. "But, on top of that, we show the sophistication of the weapon in a lot of fun ways: you not only see through a building, you see a person's skeleton and even their heart beating inside. There are some great visual effects there."[6]


Eraser began principal photography in 1995 in New York City. Locations would include The Harlem Rail Yard in the South Bronx, Central Park's Sheep Meadow and Chinatown.[6] Following shooting in New York production moved to Washington D.C.[6] For the action sequence which takes place in the Reptile House of New York City Zoo, interiors were built on the soundstages of the Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, California.[6] The screenplay went through numerous drafts by some of the most prominent screenwriters in the business, with a great deal of uncredited script-doctoring work being done by Graham Yost and William Wisher.

One of the most demanding action sequences in the film featured the character of Kruger forced to flee from a jet speeding through the skies at 250 miles (400 km) per hour. Speaking about this scene, director Russell says: "These things are jigsaw puzzle pieces not only within shooting sequence but within each shot. You had elements that were live action, elements that were miniature, sometimes computer-generated, and they're all married together in the final processing."[6] Some of the physical stunts were performed by Schwarzenegger himself. For the "aerial" stunt Arnold was required to fall 65 feet (20 m) in vertical descent and perform a back flip in mid-flight. The shot took seven takes to get right. In the final film, Kruger appears to drop along the length of the fuselage and past the flaming engine of the jet thanks to inventive camera angles and special effects.


The original name of the Cyrez corporations was "Cyrex". However, Cyrix, a microprocessor corporation and rival of Intel, protested. The name was then changed digitally in any scenes where the name appeared in a fairly costly process for the time, and dialogue redubbed.[14] Some instances of the "Cyrex" logo are still visible in the finished film.


Home media[edit]

Eraser was released on VHS and LaserDisc on October 29, 1996.[15] The DVD was then released in 1997.

The North American LaserDisc release of the film is notorious for being poorly manufactured, with a large number of copies exhibiting severe laser rot. [16]


Box office[edit]

Eraser had an opening weekend of $24.5 million in the United States during the summer season of 1996,[17] staying ahead of The Hunchback of Notre Dame.[18][19] The final US gross was $101.2 million and final worldwide gross was $242.3 million.[1] Eraser was a commercial success in the Philippines, grossing more at the local box office than Twister, Mission: Impossible, and The Rock.[20] The film also had the largest opening for a Warner Bros. film in Malaysia, holding that record for six years until 2002 when it was given to Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.[21]

Critical response[edit]

Based on 56 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an overall approval rating of 43% and an average score of 5/10. The site's consensus reads: "Eraser's shoot-'em-up action might show off some cutting edge weaponry, but its rote story is embarrassingly obsolete".[22] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 56 out of 100 based on reviews from 18 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[23]

Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A−" on an A+ to F scale.[24]

A more positive review came from Roger Ebert, who gave the film 3 stars out of a possible 4. He wrote that there were so many plot holes that "it helps to have a short attention span", but that Eraser is nonetheless "actually good action fun, with spectacular stunts and special effects" and a spirited performance from Williams "running and jumping and fighting and shooting and kicking and screaming and being tied to chairs and smuggling computer discs and looking great."[25]

Other media[edit]


A novelization based on the film by Robert Tine titled Eraser, was released in 1996.

Video game[edit]

The PC video game Eraser - Turnabout was released as a follow-up to the plot of the film.[26][27]


In September 2021, a sequel, which became a reboot of Eraser instead, was announced to be in development with Dominic Sherwood in the lead role.[28] The film co-stars Jacky Lai, and the supporting cast includes McKinley Belcher III and Eddie Ramos. It was filmed secretly in mid-2021, for release through Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.[4] The film was released theatrically in Germany on March 31, 2022, and on Digital, Blu-ray & DVD in United States on June 7, 2022. It became available for streaming on HBO Max in fall 2022.[29]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Eraser". Box Office Mojo. Archived from the original on July 26, 2019. Retrieved November 3, 2014.
  2. ^ "Oscar night: Fashion world's moment in sun". The Orlando Sentinel. March 25, 1997. p. 4. Archived from the original on May 6, 2023. Retrieved May 6, 2023 – via Open access icon
  3. ^ Taylor, Jim (March 21, 1997). "DVD Frequently Asked Questions (with answers!)". Video Discovery. Archived from the original on March 29, 1997. Retrieved October 17, 2019.
  4. ^ a b "'Shadowhunters' Star Dominic Sherwood Leads Warner Bros Reboot Of Arnie Action Pic 'Eraser'". Deadline Hollywood. 13 September 2021.
  5. ^ "'Shadowhunters' Dominic Sherwood Cast in 'Eraser' Reboot of Arnold Schwarzenegger Movie". Collider. 13 September 2021.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Eraser production notes". Warner Bros. 1996. Archived from the original on January 6, 2008. Retrieved April 10, 2007.
  7. ^ Mell, Eila (2005). Casting Might-Have-Beens: A Film by Film Directory of Actors Considered for Roles Given to Others. McFarland. ISBN 9781476609768. Archived from the original on 2021-07-02. Retrieved 2020-10-31.
  8. ^ Maslin, Janet (1996). "Eraser review". New York Times. Archived from the original on July 2, 2021. Retrieved April 10, 2007.
  9. ^ PUIG, CLAUDIA (1996-04-25). "'Eraser' on a Hurried Run to the Finish Line". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Archived from the original on 2017-02-02. Retrieved 2017-01-22.
  10. ^ "An Interview with John Milius". IGN. 2003-05-07. Archived from the original on 2017-07-17. Retrieved 2017-01-22.
  11. ^ "Eraser – Movie Forums". Archived from the original on 2017-02-03. Retrieved 2017-01-22.
  12. ^ ""I was never conscious of my screenplays having any acts. It's all bullshit." – John Milius". Archived from the original on 2017-02-04. Retrieved 2017-01-22.
  13. ^ Landler, Mark (6 October 1996). "Not a Movie to His Name, but That's Hollywood". The New York Times.
  14. ^ Puig, Claudia (June 12, 1996). "Chip Maker Gets Warner Bros. to Erase Its Name from Action Film". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on March 5, 2016. Retrieved January 14, 2015.
  15. ^ King, Susan (August 16, 1996). "'Letterbox' Brings Wide Screen Home". Times Staff Writer. Los Angeles Times. p. 96. Archived from the original on March 11, 2023. Retrieved March 11, 2023 – via Open access icon
  16. ^ "Eraser". The LaserDisc Database.
  17. ^ "'Hunchback' could have staying power". The Winona Daily News. June 25, 1996. p. 12. Archived from the original on November 15, 2023. Retrieved November 15, 2023. Open access icon
  18. ^ Brennan, Judy (June 24, 1996). "'Eraser,' 'Hunchback' Post Strong Openings". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on December 22, 2014. Retrieved December 8, 2014.
  19. ^ "Eraser' rubs out competition at U.S. box office". United Press International. 23 June 1996. Archived from the original on February 26, 2022. Retrieved 26 February 2022.
  20. ^ Red, Isah V. (September 13, 1996). "Making it to the box office". Manila Standard. Kamahalan Publishing Corp. p. 36B. Retrieved May 16, 2022.
  21. ^ Groves, Don (November 17, 2002). "O'seas auds also wild about 'Harry'". Variety. Retrieved June 14, 2022.
  22. ^ "Eraser (1996)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Archived from the original on February 15, 2009. Retrieved January 2, 2024.
  23. ^ "Eraser Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved September 20, 2022.
  24. ^ "CinemaScore". Archived from the original on 2019-12-10. Retrieved 2021-07-02.
  25. ^ "Eraser Movie Review & Film Summary (1996) | Roger Ebert". Archived from the original on 2016-03-14. Retrieved 2016-03-13.
  26. ^ " Eraser Turnabout: Software". Amazon. Archived from the original on 2015-01-14. Retrieved 2020-05-18.
  27. ^ "Eraser: Turnabout for Windows (1997) - MobyGames". Archived from the original on 2018-05-21. Retrieved 2020-05-18.
  28. ^ Editorial Staff (September 14, 2021). "Eraser sequel in the works; Sherwood not Schwarzenegger". MovieHole. Retrieved May 15, 2022.
  29. ^ "'Eraser: Reborn' – Reboot of the Arnold Schwarzenegger Movie Releasing in June". 15 March 2022.

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