Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

It looks like I’m getting old. Me and the family are watching some movie that features actress KeKe Palmer and my twelve-year old son looks at her all googly eyed and mentions that she’s ‘hot’. Naturally as a father I am happy that my son like girls, not that there’s anything wrong with those young men that don’t mind you, but next thing you know he’s going to be going out on dates then getting married, then I become a grandfather and then I die. Boooo mortality. That little story has nothing to do with anything other than the fact the young Ms. Palmer is one of the principle characters in Finnish director Renny Harlin’s new movie ‘Cleaner’, a film that I really, really wanted to like but something was missing in it, and I really can’t quite put my fingers on what it was.

Samuel L. Jackson, who I haven’t seen in a new movie in like three weeks so I’m guessing he was on some kind of extended vacation, assumes the role of ex-police officer Tom Carver who now makes ends meet by running a crime scene cleaning business. As Tom informs us during his narration, when somebody dies, the authorities will remove the body but the process of cleaning up the blood, smell, and other little nuggets that death leave behind falls in the hands of the family, and that’s where Tom comes in.

Tom gets one particular gig that requires him to go to a rather plush neighborhood and clean up a scene in which a murder has taken place. As is usually the case in his jobs, the body has been removed but there is quite the mess left behind as whatever happened to the victim came as a result of a gunshot at close range. Tom does his job as thoroughly and as completely as he always does and goes about his merry way, only to find out later that the he just cleaned up a crime scene that nobody knows anything about. We’re talking c-o-n spiracy here.

Now as an ex-cop Tom has a line to the department in his former best friend Eddie Lorenzo (Ed Harris) who he fills in on the details of what’s going down. Eddie is a former best friend only because of a tragedy that Tom suffered years back causing him to retire from the force and attempt to leave all the pain behind and allow him to focus on raising his young daughter Rose (Palmer). Tom is also working with the wife of the man who we presumed murdered in Ann Norcutt (Eva Mendes) who thinks she may know why her husband was iced and possesses the proof to substantiate these claims. Nonetheless it’s all closing in around Tom because the evidence is pointing towards him as a suspect, his daughter is losing her mind and there seems to be no one he can trust.

Renny Harlin has had a very interesting film career as he has never made a movie that I don’t believe that can be termed ‘great’ though he has had some that I liked a lot, particularly ‘Die Hard 2’, ‘Deep Blue Sea’ also with Samuel L, and ‘Mind Hunters’. He’s also helmed a few flicks that could conceivably get him slapped if he walked down the street with out an escort like ‘The Adventures of Ford Fairlane’, ‘Cutthroat Island’ and the ‘Covenant’. I held out high hopes for ‘Cleaner’ because Harlin has shown on occasion to be a very capable director of action themed films and also because he has an outstanding cast to work with. With Samuel L., Eddie Harris, Luis Guzman and of course Eva Mendes who we love so very much, the stage seemed set for a very good film watching experience, but it never quite came together. It’s not that ‘Cleaner’ is a bad film because the performances from the veteran cast are tight, the look of the film is clean and slick with a very noir-esque style and Harlin does a good job of creating tension throughout the film, but ‘Cleaner’ feels incomplete, almost unfinished. The script by Matthew Aldrich sets up a very interesting story that places its main character in some extremely challenging and difficult situations that is engrossing to watch but as the movie goes along the film loses more and more of its edge until it culminates with an extremely underwhelming conclusion.

It’s too bad really because ‘Cleaner’ started out strong and looked as if it had the potential to be an incredibly effective thriller but simply petered out under the weight of its expectations.

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