'Erased': An enjoyable thriller
By Kate Erbland, Special to MSN Movies
Putting a reasonably smart twist on the daddy-daughter brand of thriller made so popular by the successful "Taken" franchise, Philipp Stölzl's "Erased" keeps the kiddo around long enough to capitalize on the charming chemistry between its leads and to inject actual emotional value to an otherwise standard spy story. Set in Belgium, Aaron Eckhart stars as Ben Logan, an American expatriate (the film first went by "The Expatriate," a far better and more suitable title for the feature) trying to raise a predictably angry teen daughter, Amy (the wonderful Liana Liberato), who doesn't understand why she had to be yanked out of America to live with a dad she's never known after the death of her beloved mother. Of course, Ben had plenty of reasons to stay away from his daughter and even more reasons for leaving the States for a seemingly quiet life: a bevy of secrets about to be exposed, thanks to a chain reaction of events far beyond the Logans' control or imagination.
While "Erased" doesn't necessarily try to hide Ben's background and big secret (this is, after all, a spy thriller), the film takes its time in getting to the action-heavy stuff, instead lulling both the Logans and the audience at large into a false sense of security. Security is actually Ben's game: His job in Belgium involves uncovering security flaws in high-tech locks and the like, and he's quite good at it, which makes the discovery that his office has literally disappeared overnight all the more unsettling. The empty office suite is just the beginning, as Ben and the suitably put-out Amy attempt to prove that Ben hasn't gone totally insane and to regain their (now-erased) identities.
There's clearly some sort of bigger, far-reaching conspiracy at play here (the stone-faced Olga Kurylenko, sneering away back in Langley, assures that early on), but what's most compelling about "Erased" is the relationship between Ben and Amy, one that easily builds in high emotional stakes (certainly higher stakes than a more traditional romantic relationship would have created). Eckhart and Liberato are both fine actors, and their familial chemistry is on point here, adding real investment to an otherwise often bloated and eventually overcomplicated story.
Arash Amel's script (learn his name now. He also wrote that upcoming "Grace of Monaco" biopic) is more than adequate for this kind of genre film, and while it may be riddled with clichés spoken (has anyone in the CIA ever yelled about a "smoking gun"?) and acted out (has anyone ever hidden something crucial in a train station locker?), it also comes with the sort of slow, building momentum that's not often present in films of this kind. Along with an exciting series of slightly messy, more realistic chase and fight scenes (a hospital-set hand-to-hand bit of combat is particularly great), "Erased" is an entertaining enough action outing with plenty of well-done elements to recommend it.
Kate Erbland is a contributing writer for MSN Movies, a critic for Boxoffice magazine and an associate editor for Film School Rejects. She has been writing about movies since 2008, but has been thinking about movies for far longer. She lives in New York City.