Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Cleaner: Grade B

Samuel L. Jackson, Ed Harris, Eva Mendes, Luiz Guzman; Director Renny Harlin.

This is an entirely plot-driven, light throwaway “dirty cops” story that has been told a thousand times before, but this one is above average for several reasons. First, Jackson does some of his best acting ever, showing depth and range. Then there’s Guzman, who usually must radiate his considerable talent from a deep background part, as in Fast Food Nation, but here is featured as the lead detective on the case. Ed Harris is always a pleasure to watch, and Eva Mendes is easy on the eyes, although both of those latter actors do not shine here as well as they might.

The story is silly, about a sort of janitorial service that cleans up stores and residences after messy homicides and suicides. When you think about it, I guess somebody has to do that work. The visuals showing Jackson in his hazmat suit, taking the squeegee to blood spatter on windows, are aggressively graphic and I think, tongue in cheek. He cleans up a homicide in a rich suburban house, forgets to return the key, goes back the next day to find the house populated by a woman (Mendes) and a dozen children celebrating a birthday party. She knows nothing of any homicide or any cleanup, and Jackson, confused and wary, backs away. That was a pretty good start to an intriguing paranoid mystery.

But instead the story takes a number of unlikely turns to become some other, much less interesting, non-mysterious story about cops on the take, a secret book of all their badge numbers formerly owned by the homicide victim, now owned by Mendes and hotly pursued by Guzman. Mendes befriends Jackson for reasons unknown and the story writhes on. In the implausible end, some justice is served on a platter of compromise. I would be disappointed if I spent money to see this film in a theater, but as a DVD rental, it will amuse you as much as any television cop show.

No comments:

Post a Comment