Eraser (film)

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Eraser (movie poster).jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byChuck Russell
Screenplay by
  • Tony Puryear
  • Walon Green
Story by
Produced by
CinematographyAdam Greenberg
Edited byMichael Tronick
Music byAlan Silvestri
Kopelson Entertainment
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • June 21, 1996 (1996-06-21)
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 follows 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.

The film was a commercial success, grossing over $242 million against a budget of $100 million. It received mixed reviews from critics, but they praised Williams and Schwarzenegger's performances, the action sequences and the visual effects. It was released in the United States on June 21, 1996 and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Sound Effects Editing in 1997. 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.[2]

A direct-to-video reboot of the film titled Eraser: Reborn starring Dominic Sherwood, is scheduled to be released on June 7, 2022.[3][4]


John Kruger – a top U.S. Marshal for the Witness Security Protection Program (WITSEC) – specializes in "erasing" high-profile witnesses: faking their deaths to protect them from anyone that might silence them before they can give their testimony in Court. After erasing mob witness Johnny Casteleone and his wife, John is given a new assignment by his superior, Chief Arthur Beller, to protect Lee Cullen, a senior executive at Cyrez Corporation, a defense contractor. Lee warned the FBI that top-level Cyrez executives covered up the creation of a top secret electromagnetic rifle and plan to sell the weapon on the black market.

In an FBI sting operation, Lee accesses the Cyrez mainframe and downloads data on the EM rifle onto two discs: one for the FBI and one for her own protection. Vice President William Donohue, her employer, detects Lee's intrusion and orders her into his office. After finding Lee's hidden camera and threatening her with a revolver, Donohue commits suicide in front of her. Lee delivers the disc to the FBI but, disillusioned by their broken promise to guarantee her safety, refuses John's protection offer. The FBI's disc is replaced with a fake by a mole working for Under Secretary of Defense Daniel Harper, the conspiracy's mastermind.

That night, Lee's house is attacked by a mercenary team led by J. Scar sent by Cyrez' corrupt CEO, Eugene Morehart. John rescues Lee and hides her in New York City, keeping her location secret even from WITSEC. John learns from his mentor, Marshal Robert DeGuerin, that several witnesses have been murdered because a mole in WITSEC is leaking information and they must relocate their witnesses. Along with agents Calderon, Schiff and newcomer Deputy Monroe, they raid a remote cabin and kill the mercenaries holding DeGuerin's witness hostage, but DeGuerin discreetly kills her when the mercenary leader reveals the marshal as the mole. Flying back to DC, DeGuerin drugs an increasingly suspicious John who manages to warn Lee to relocate before losing consciousness. The warning call is traced to NYC and DeGuerin kills Monroe using John's gun, framing him as the mole. Revealing he, Calderon, and Schiff are corrupt, DeGuerin explains he is the go-between for the black market buyer, and John escapes from the plane to rescue Lee from DeGuerin's mercenaries. John saves Lee from J. Scar at Central Park Zoo, who pursues them; John releases several alligators that devour Scar and two of his men.

DeGuerin has John and Lee branded as fugitives. The pair enlist Johnny's help, and using a mainframe backdoor in Donohue's terminal, they decrypt Lee's second disc. It reveals that a huge shipment of EM rifles is at the Baltimore docks and will be delivered to Russian Mafia boss, Sergei Ivanovich Petrofsky, who plans to sell the weapons overseas to terrorists. A Cyrez operative pinpoints their whereabouts and remotely erases the disc; DeGuerin kidnaps Lee and takes her to the docks as the shipment is being loaded onto Petrofsky's Russian freighter.

Johnny contacts his mobster cousin, Tony Two-Toes and associates to help John raid the docks. They kill Petrofsky, his henchmen, and DeGuerin's team. In a struggle atop a shipping container, DeGuerin holds Lee hostage, but John frees her 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 rescues the critically-wounded DeGuerin, leaving him to be detained by Beller and the authorities and proving his and Lee's innocence.

Weeks later, John brings Lee to a hearing for DeGuerin, Harper, and Morehart, who are indicted for treason. With little confidence that her testimony could secure their convictions, John and Lee publicly fake their deaths in a van explosion to trick DeGuerin, Harper, and Morehart into lowering their guard. In the back of their limousine, DeGuerin congratulates Harper on their deaths and says that they should go back into black-market business as soon as possible, but is surprised when Harper says that he assumed DeGuerin had them killed. The men are confused, then shocked as their limo stops at a railroad crossing and the driver – a disguised Johnny – locks the doors and exits the vehicle. Kruger calls DeGuerin and tells him, "You've just been erased" as they see a train heading right for them. They are unable to escape, and the train slams into the limo, killing all three occupants. Driving away Johnny waves goodbye to John, as he walks over to Lee in a waiting car. When Lee asks Kruger what happened he responds by telling her "they caught a train."



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.[5] 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."[5] 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.[5] 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, the wife of Arnold Schwarzenegger, suggested her for the role.[5] 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", they would cast James Caan in this role.[5] Before Caan was officially cast, Jonathan Pryce was also considered for the role.[6] 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.[7] Extensive, uncredited rewrites were made by Frank Darabont and William Wisher Jr. (Terminator 2: Judgment Day).[8] Additional rewrites were made by John Milius as a favor to Schwarzenegger.[9][10][11]


The "rail-gun" featured in the film as a key plot device, 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."[5]


Eraser began principal photography in New York City, locations would include The Harlem Rail Yard in the South Bronx, Central Park's Sheep Meadow and Chinatown.[5] Following shooting in New York production moved to Washington D.C.[5] 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.[5] The screenplay went through numerous drafts with 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."[5] 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.

Post production[edit]

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.[12] Some instances of the "Cyrex" logo are still visible in the finished film.


Box office[edit]

Eraser had an opening weekend of $24.5 million in the United States during the summer season of 1996. 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.[13]

Critical response[edit]

Based on 51 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an overall approval rating of 40% and an average score of 5.1/10. 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".[14]

Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A-" on an A+ to F scale.[15]

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."[16]

Other media[edit]

Video game[edit]

The PC video game Eraser - Turnabout was released as a follow up to the plot of the film.[17][18]


In September 2021, a sequel, which became a remake of the film instead, was announced to be in development with Dominic Sherwood in the lead role.[19] The film stars Jacky Lai will co-star in the movie, while the supporting cast will include McKinley Belcher III and Eddie Ramos. It filmed secretly in mid-2021, for release through Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.[3] In March 2022, it was announced that the movie will be released on Digital, Blu-ray & DVD on June 7, 2022. It will later be available for streaming on HBO Max in fall 2022.[20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Eraser". Box Office Mojo. Archived from the original on July 26, 2019. Retrieved November 3, 2014.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ a b "'Shadowhunters' Star Dominic Sherwood Leads Warner Bros Reboot Of Arnie Action Pic 'Eraser'". Deadline Hollywood. 13 September 2021.
  4. ^ "'Shadowhunters' Dominic Sherwood Cast in 'Eraser' Reboot of Arnold Schwarzenegger Movie". 13 September 2021.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ Maslin, Janet (1996). "Eraser review". New York Times. Archived from the original on July 2, 2021. Retrieved April 10, 2007.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ "An Interview with John Milius". IGN. 2003-05-07. Archived from the original on 2017-07-17. Retrieved 2017-01-22.
  10. ^ "Eraser – Movie Forums". Archived from the original on 2017-02-03. Retrieved 2017-01-22.
  11. ^ ""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.
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ Red, Isah V. (September 13, 1996). "Making it to the box office". Manila Standard. Kamahalan Publishing Corp. p. 36B. Retrieved May 16, 2022.
  14. ^ "Eraser (1996)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Archived from the original on February 15, 2009. Retrieved January 5, 2022.
  15. ^ "CinemaScore". Archived from the original on 2019-12-10. Retrieved 2021-07-02.
  16. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-03-14. Retrieved 2016-03-13.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  17. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-01-14. Retrieved 2020-05-18.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  18. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2018-05-21. Retrieved 2020-05-18.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  19. ^ Editorial Staff (September 14, 2021). "Eraser sequel in the works; Sherwood not Schwarzenegger". MovieHole. Retrieved May 15, 2022.
  20. ^ "'Eraser: Reborn' – Reboot of the Arnold Schwarzenegger Movie Releasing in June". 15 March 2022.

External links[edit]