J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Erased: Eckhart vs. Kurylenko

For the CIA, no good deed goes unpunished.  When they finally take on a Hollywood-approved villain, it causes the violent destruction of their Belgian station.  A former agency operative and his estranged daughter will have to figure out why in Philipp Stölz’s Erased (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

Ben Logan is a security consultant doing contract work for Halgate, a soulless multinational corporation.  Unfortunately, he is too good at his job.  After inadvertently uncovering something incriminating, Logan suddenly finds his office has been emptied, his bank account and email wiped clean, and his recent coworkers lying in the morgue as John Does.  Only a timely bit of bad parenting saves Hogan and his daughter, Amy, sending them to the emergency room during that fateful night, instead of their flat.

Logan does not know his daughter very well.  He only assumed custody after the death of his ex-wife.  Perhaps life on the run will help bring them together.  However, he knows Anna Brandt only too well.  He used to report directly to the corrupt CIA official—and he wasn’t working as a security analyst.  He has “special” skills.  That is why she will have to take charge of the manhunt personally.

Despite Brandt’s betrayal, Erased depicts the CIA in a reasonably positive light.  As a policy, the agency is conscientiously working against the bad guys, rather than with them.  Sure, Logan obviously worked for some kind of CIA hit squad, but based on the events that unfold, the agency seems to have a legit need for such specialists.  Even Brandt has her moments down the stretch.

The fact that she is played by Olga Kurylenko does not hurt either.  Smart and chic, she is more of a super-spy than a femme fatale, but she is always a worthy antagonist.  Indeed, this might be Kurylenko’s year, following-up her starring role in Malick’s To the Wonder with a nice villainous turn.  Some enterprising distributor ought to pick-up her powerful Chernobyl drama Land of Oblivion.

For his part, Aaron Eckhart makes a credible square-jawed hard-nose, carrying off his action scenes pretty well.  As Amy, Liana Liberato is slightly less grating than she was in the clumsy Nic Cage vehicle Trespass.  At least, that constitutes progress.  Unfortunately, Stars War alumnus Garrick Hagon (Biggs Darklighter, sans moustache) largely phones it in as bland corporate baddy, James Halgate.

Erased (a.k.a. The Expatriate, a much cooler title) is indeed a bit of a departure from Stölz’s previous German language historical dramas, the so-so Young Goethe in Love and the superior North Face, but he shows surprising affinity for the material.  Granted, screenwriter Arash Amel never cooks up with anything truly new and different, but Stölz’s execution is polished and pacey.  Not bad by B-movie standards, Erased opens this Friday (5/17) at the Village East and is already available through Radius-TWC’s VOD platforms.

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