“Taken” meets “The Bourne Identity” in “Erased,” a familiar but energetic and entertaining actioner that has rolled into numerous territories since last August under the title “The Expatriate.” Aaron Eckhart toplines as an ex-CIA operative on the lam with his teenage daughter from other, villanous espionage elements. Now making a belated, modest U.S. release — starting this Friday on a single Manhattan screen — this slick English-language debut from helmer Philipp Stoelzl (“North Face,” “Young Goethe in Love”) might have gone wider, despite its lack of B.O. names. Still, even minimal theatrical exposure should at least raise its profile for solid exposure in home formats.
Ben Logan (Eckhart) left the CIA — for reasons not explained until well into the proceedings — to work for the Antwerp office of a European company which makes devices that can penetrate the highest-security systems, presumably benefiting good-guy governments. It’s a job he’s held for just a few weeks. Also new and somewhat awkward is his living situation with his teenage daughter Amy (Liana Liberato), still recovering from the loss of her mother, whom Ben had separated from long before she became terminally ill.
Eventually it becomes clear that Ben has been set up, his skills exploited by a shadow employer with no apparent ties to the legit one he thought had hired him; he’s forced to scram with an initially panicked, then surprisingly resourceful Amy. Together they elude assassins and local cops, and deal with Amy’s understandable shock that she never knew her dad’s true profession, let alone his adeptness at killing bad guys, picking locks and myriad other normally criminal activities.
The tricky script by Arash Amel (of the forthcoming “Grace of Monaco”) borders on the over-convoluted in its conspiracy-theory intricacies, and occasionally risks silliness with a “You lied to me! You’re the worst dad ever!” father/daughter dynamic. But it’s all very confidently handled by Stoelzl, with excellent use of locations and an able multinational cast. While never exactly
nerve-jangling, or as visceral as the “Bourne” series in its action sequences, it’s still a confidently engineered, propulsive piece of intelligent action cinema.
An actor who probably should have become a major American star some time ago, Eckhart easily shoulders the authority of an essentially decent man and father nonetheless accustomed to violence, who convincingly speaks many languages and proves awfully capable in a wide range of high-pressure situations (although the thesp’s decision to do the cliched manly-man Eastwoodian “whisper voice” is debatable). Liberato is decent; the currently overexposed Olga Kurylenko doesn’t do much with her mole role. Colorful supporting cast includes Alexander Fehling and Nick Alachiotis as two among
many characters dispatched to eliminate our protagonists.
Pic has a handsome widescreen look, a brisk pace and an appropriate if conventional score by Jeff Danna. Tech/design elements are polished.