The DVD Autopsy: ERASED
Aaron Eckhart mimics Jason Bourne as he races around Belgium while trying to reconnect with his estranged daughter. The fact that her life becomes endangered numerous times at his own hand redefines the meaning of his being "dangerous".
(Movies fail at the box office, and more fail to even find release into theaters. When one of these dead on arrival titles arrives on disc they go under the knife of the forensic video-examiner. Be forewarned – this piece is entirely a SPOILER.)
Considering how closely this international thriller hews to the BOURNE IDENTITY conventions I might have been fooled had you told me it was one of those infamous rip-off releases from the studio The Asylum. Except there is no new BOURNE iteration in theaters and this was not a laughably poor production.
Competently put together by a German director and created by a first time screen writer this borrows heavily on previously successful films. Aaron Eckhart plays an American expatriate in Brussels – telling since this was released across Europe as The Expatriate, a change from the shooting title Erased, which it obviously reacquired for the U.S. DVD release. Let’s get this fallen soldier on the gurney and see why it faded to black in the marketplace.
00:01:11 Exploratory Story Incision
We open in Brussels, Belgium on a large bank of electronic safety deposit boxes. A masked intruder guns down a guard, using his credentials to steal an electronically secure canister. He has killed around a dozen workers to getaway. Our thriller has begun!
00:03:03 Invasive Pathos
A motorcycle delivers the bag to a waiting car under a bridge. As the backseat occupant inspects we cut to Langley, Virginia, where we meet agent Anna Brandt (a sullen Olga Kurylenko). She calls the guy in Belgium, but he is too preoccupied stroking the McGuffin to answer.
00:04:32 Diluted Tableau
Now we get Aaron Eckhart, at home as Ben Logan, getting ready to start his day with his teenage daughter Amy. There is little mention why they live in Belgium, and the absence of Mom is barely addressed. I take that to mean it’s not important.
00:06:27 Weakened Impulse
Ben works at Halgate Security Systems as a technician investigating the fallibility of their devices. He and a co-worker discover the company does not legally own the technologies. The pulse races during the intrigue of patent rights mysteries!
00:08:36 Invasive Pathos
Ben gives a demonstration exposing flaws in two of their security methods. These are the same two security devices seen on the stolen canister, and Ben’s boss is revealed as the man in the car who received it. My trained cinematic mind tells me these are vitally connected details!
00:11:04 Depleted Character Concentration
Ben is striving to build a better relationship with Amy, but arriving late to a school function where she wins a photo essay competition is a poor attempt in my eyes.
00:12:44 Cranial Atrophy
As they drive home he hands Amy some cookies, and next she begins to have a severe allergic reaction because they contain peanuts. Even an absentee father should know this. I’m sensing Ben is no good at this parenting thing.
00:14:43 Cauterized Plot Cavity
Ben’s phone receives a message concerning a delivery to his office. They leave the hospital to arrive and find the office has been entirely cleared out. The phones no longer work, the parent company denies this office existed, and Ben’s Blackberry goes dark. It is a complete whitewash, except this ignores Ben just received a notification from the office which no longer exists.
00:20:15 Chronicle Seizure
While I grasp Ben’s need to figure things out the minutes we spend watching him confront various Halgate offices and employees is sorta, kinda the opposite of what we expect in a “thriller”.
00:21:12 Plot Stimulant
During his quest at a bank a former co-worker approaches. He pulls a gun and forces Ben and Amy into their car. The soundtrack pulses like I’m supposed to feel tension, but I was distracted by the European guy with the heavy accent being named “Floyd”.
00:23:04 Cliché Malignancy
The men wrestle in the car and eventually it goes over an embankment. After the crash the men fight and Ben breaks Floyd’s neck after he learns they were supposed to have been killed at home while they were in the hospital. An American expatriate, in Europe, displaying hidden skills, as he is pursued by shadowy government entities -- thus begins the BOURNE portion of this film.
When they flee we get the Hollywood tradition of the man who has to hold the arm of the female who cannot run on her own.
00:26:16 Depleted Character Concentration
Ben and Amy break into a home. Ben still has no grasp on this parenting thing as she helps him bandage HIS wounds first, even while Amy has blood running down her face.
00:29:03 Ruptured Visual
Ben lifted a key off of Floyd, so he and Amy cower in a train station as they look for the public lockers. Our being impressed with Ben’s spy skills takes a hit when he non-suspiciously covers his face with paper as he walks by cops through the terminal.
00:31:38 Iatrogenic Direction
On a bus Ben leafs through the locker contents. Just like THE BOURNE IDENTITY Amy spots photos taken of her and expresses indignation over who could do such a thing.
00:32:54 Cliché Malignancy
Ben gets the idea to search the nearest hospital where he discovers the bodies of most of his co-workers, all of whom were untraceable immigrants.
Morgue workers must be the lowest paid professionals based on how often Hollywood shows them easily bribed to get access to bodies.
00:34:33 Arrested Physics
Looking over the body of his former lab partner Ben sees she still has the mysterious patent number written on her hand. This is still in place AFTER her body had been pulled out of the river.
00:42:06 Cauterized Plot Cavity
As Ben and Amy leave an assassin chases them throughout a hospital, shooting the entire staff, but not Ben and Amy. The man is killed by Ben so next, in a diner bathroom, he admits to being a CIA operative.
So a shell company shielded its activities by hiring only illegal immigrants -- and one CIA-trained spy.
00:43:43 Exploratory Story Incision
At Langley Anna is brought into an expository meeting where agents detail the missing plot points. Floyd and the second gunman were operatives, and the vault that was robbed was a CIA black-storage facility.
THEREFORE – Anna sent Ben to work at a shell company, compromising the security of a CIA vault, and when the false company shut down other agents were ordered to kill in order to hide . . . that a CIA agent was behind its own theft??? Yea, this just became a mess.
00:44:37 Blunt Force Dialogue
We learn now the actual Halgate Group had a freighter sink, filled with illegal firearms. The vault robbery involved incriminating information about the shipment. Anna’s director sums up Washington’s position:
AGENT DIRECTOR: "The Halgate group was shipping arms to destabilize countries, for their economic gain. Naturally, the White House thinks it’s OUR job to destabilize countries."
00:48:19 Weakened Impulse
Dad and daughter flee to Antwerp. During an intimate talk Ben brings up the number he copied off his co-worker’s hand. finally, we revisit the gripping patent-rights subplot!
00:54:33 Locale Anesthesia
Amy’s would-be boyfriend arranges for them to hide in an immigrant community in Brussels. The always dour Anna takes a flight there to oversee the investigation. The Halgate Corporation offices in Brussels deals with the ship accident. The story is converging to a climax with the urgency of sloth hopped up on a triple-espresso.
00:56:58 Septic Introduction
Anna secretly meets with a Halgate executive with whom she has secretly been orchestrating this fiasco. Both are dismayed at the other’s decisions, and when asked how he will handle Ben the suit declares he has “brought in an expert”.
His expert appears to be a crotchety 70 year old.
00:58:29 Cauterized Plot Cavity
Finally, more of the gripping patent subplot!
At a cyber-café Dad & daughter look into the product specifics. He discovers the Agency owns the security patents because, even as they hide this detail behind another shell company, the corporate phone number listed on the forms rings the main CIA switchboard.
01:07:11 Adverse Activity
Through no logical methods Ben traces his former boss to a hotel. As Anna is also arriving Ben gets into a protracted fight with the man in his room. This culminates with the guy grabbing Ben’s gun and killing himself -- because this will somehow protect the guy’s family.
It is shaping up that much of this plot depends on the audience just taking things based on faith.
01:09:45 Continuity Failure
Tripping the fire alarm allows the pair to escape the hotel room with the CIA canister. In the parking garage Anna’s agents fire upon Ben, but he gets a gun drawn on his former partner/lover.
Amy meanwhile hits the valet station to steal keys. We watch her select an Audi sedan, but she pulls up seconds later in a BMW station wagon.
01:15:19 Plot Stimulant
Dismayed by it all Amy runs off to collect her things and return to America. At the immigrant loft Ben discovers the geriatric hitman killed the occupants and kidnapped his daughter. Now this film -- stealing elements from BOURNE consistently -- segues into stealing elements from TAKEN.
01:17:18 Iatrogenic Direction
In order to inform the audience what is happening Ben suddenly teams up with Amy’s boyfriend in a loft. He shares the vital document details with the youth who has zero idea what any of it means.
01:19:56 Continuity Failure
The second half of this film is a continuous montage of staircase action scenes. After Ben calls Anna to meet at a train station we see her racing up yet another set of stairs, and the shot cuts to her stepping off an escalator.
01:23:17 Technologic Thrombosis
In the hovel-loft we watch as Ben is able to use household chemicals and coffee filters to create his own C-4 explosive.
01:30:07 Weakened Impulse
Anna is put in charge of Amy for the exchange of the secret CIA documents. Outside Anna shoots a pair of henchmen, but then Grandpa Mercenary shoots Anna. It is a poor choice that the first time Olga Kurylenko chooses to show ANY emotion is when her character dies off.
01:36:40 Collapsed Climax
The final exchange is arranged. Ben hands the docs over in a wired briefcase and all of the major Halgate players – Halgate, the suits, and the septugenarian hitman -- are conveniently gathered for exploding. Cue tearful ending
While decently made this thriller was poorly plotted and leaden in its action. The obvious ways it copies classic action films means it begs comparison to those titles, and you quickly decide this is a far inferior effort.
The international intrigue unravels under pragmatic analysis. The subplot we are supposed to care about involving Ben reuniting with his daughter is undercut by him being horrible at parenting. We are supposed to marvel at a guy who is a technical expert, trained in combat methods, and is fluent in numerous European languages including Croatian. Yet this wizard cannot remember his daughter has a fatal peanut allergy. That is a serious blind spot for any expert.
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