Thursday, July 18, 2013

On DVD/Blu-ray: ERASED (2013) and WRONG (2013)

(Belgium/Canada - 2012; 2013 US release)

Another entry in the post-TAKEN sweepstakes, the by-the-numbers ERASED allows Aaron Eckhart to channel his inner Liam Neeson as Ben Logan, an ex-CIA agent living in Antwerp where he's working as a consultant for a high-tech security firm.  He's recently been joined by his estranged teenage daughter Amy (Liana Liberato) after the death of his ex-wife back in the States, and while they're taking baby steps, they aren't exactly getting along.  Father and daughter set aside their differences quickly when they make an evening stop at Ben's office to find it completely empty, his e-mail account and phone records wiped, and the company headquarters in Brussels having no record of employment for him or his MIA co-workers.  It would seem he's been...wait for it....hold on...you guessed it...ERASED!

What follows is a convoluted conspiracy involving a nefarious corporation hiring a none-too-wise Ben to inadvertently assist in a plot to arm a rebel faction in Mozambique in exchange for access to a lithium mine.  But it allows Eckhart a chance to kick ass and shoot bad guys throughout Belgium, as he's pursued by an ex-lover and CIA black-ops colleague played by Olga Kurylenko, who's introduced dropping two Alka-Seltzers into a glass of water and chugging it so we know she's hard, driven, and on-the-clock 24/7.  And, SPOILER ALERT, the first thing out of Amy's mouth when she realizes her father was once a government-contracted killer is "I don't even know who you are!"  Feeling like the kind of cable-ready international programmer that should've debuted on Reelz, ERASED makes nice use of Antwerp and Brussels scenery and shows that Eckhart can be a formidable action guy, but this material is pretty second-rate, Arash Amel's predictable script is riddled with clich├ęs, and NORTH FACE director Philipp Stolzl, a music video vet who's worked with artists like Madonna, Garbage, and Rammstein, really lets the pace lag at times.  There is one unexpected noteworthy bit where Ben's car tumbles from an on-ramp and down to the highway below after a chase sequence, and you can tell they really let the car roll off because it looks as clumsy and awkward as something like that would look in real life.  Sure, Eckhart is a much better actor than, say, Steven Seagal, but for the most part, there's nothing to differentiate the instantly-forgettable and aptly-titled ERASED from any of the countless other DTV black-ops conspiracy thrillers you've seen hundreds of times before, probably why it only managed to get a US release on just 51 screens.  (R, 105 mins)

(France - 2012; 2013 US release)

WRONG is the latest film from French writer/director/musician Quentin Dupieux, who gave us RUBBER, arguably cinema's greatest "killer tire on a rampage" movie.  WRONG is similar in its oddball nature with its Franz Kafka-meets-Michel Gondry-and-Charlie Kaufman sense of absurdist, nightmare whimsy as it follows affable Dolph Springer (Jack Plotnick) on a quest to find his missing dog, Paul.  WRONG opens with a firefighter taking a dump in the middle of the street and quickly gives us Dolph dealing with oddball neighbors; a clock that goes from 7:59 to 7:60;  an organic pizza joint with a clingy cashier (Alexis Dziena) who loves Dolph but gets him confused with his gardener Victor (Eric Judor) and gets pregnant, going from conception to labor in one day; a blank, empty, stamped envelope that arrives in Dolph's mailbox; Dolph going to his job every day in an office where there's a constant torrential downpour, even though he got fired three months earlier; a belligerent cop (Mark Burnham) who's far too eager to speak his mind; and a wealthy mystery man named Master Chang (William Fichtner) who knows the whereabouts of Paul.  There's also a private eye (Steve Little) searching for the dog, using a new technology that involves recording onto cassette the subconscious memories of canine bowel movements, which of course gives us the line "I was able to access the turd's memories."  Like RUBBER, WRONG is a prefab cult movie that's amusing for awhile until it stops being amusing and just becomes tedious and overly impressed with its own eccentricity. (Unrated, 93 mins)

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