Talking Movies

December 15, 2019

From the Archives: Code Name: The Cleaner

From the pre-Talking Movies archives.

A strong contender for turkey of the year, this 82 minute long ‘comedy’ manages the staggering feat of raising no laughs, not even a giggle or a titter during its entire (and mercifully brief) running time. The one joke about Lionel Richie that seemed mildly amusing in the trailer becomes totally flat when delivered in context by our amnesiac hero Jake, played by the extremely dubiously monikered Cedric the Entertainer. This is an incredibly joyless exercise which the mind struggles to explain except as a victim of the writer’s strike which prevented some comedy writers from adding the gags to a rejected thriller script before filming began, except that would make sense for a film released this time next year but not for one released now. This film is so predictably structured it could be taught as a model of uninvolved storytelling, the secret motive is revealed here, a character betrays another here…. You will become so bored that you begin to wonder what an ambitious writer could have done with such a set-up if they’d chosen to go for a full on paranoid thriller. But I digress, we must deal with what we have before us, not the lost opportunities.

What we have is not pretty. Cedric the Entertainer stole 2003’s Intolerable Cruelty from George Clooney. It is thus baffling just why he would appear in a picture that reduces black culture to the mix of casual misogyny, objectification of women and farcical macho posturing of ‘ghetto’ rappers that drives Bill Cosby among others so wild. Desperate Housewives star Nicolette Sheridan gets precious little screen time as she is there only to do a ‘sexy’ dance in lingerie to get information from her ‘husband’ Jake. How does it compare to the similar scene between Jamie Lee Curtis and Arnie in True Lies? Not even close. Lucy Liu similarly is introduced in sexy slow motion to allow Jake to drool over her ‘fine ass’. All this is quite startling for supposedly egalitarian 2007 and is only partly redeemed by Liu’s belated transformation into an ass-kicking FBI agent which allows for an absurd finale in which everyone, apart from mere janitor Jake, develops Charlie Angel’s style martial arts skills.

Boredom can be somewhat staved off by playing spot the obscure TV actors. But that’s really only a game suitable for walking IMDbs such as this reviewer who noticed that Nicolette Sheridan’s receptionist is the receptionist from Canadian vampire show Blood Ties. Canadian character actor Callum Keith Rennie features prominently as a bent FBI agent and comes out with some dignity intact. Not much mind, but a lot more than his one-time Due South co-star Beau Starr as one of Jake’s fellow janitors. Brett Ratner, the auteur behind the Rush Hour trilogy, produced this dreck. Brett, just…stop. Okay? Please??

0/5

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