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

July 24, 2018

From the Archives: The X-Files: I Want to Believe

Another deep dive into the pre-Talking Movies archive dredges up a sequel that really should have stayed hidden deep down.

There are some spooky things about this film, none of them to do with the plot. It’s been ten years since the first X-Files film Fight the Future, six years since the show ended, and eight years since everyone stopped caring. So why release this film against the all powerful Dark Knight when it’s so obviously a Hallowe’en film? Every scene takes place in a snowy West Virginia winter and the story eschews alien conspiracies for straight horror. Even odder, given that The Dark Knight is a triumphant sequel, original show writers Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz are pitting against it a sequel that is not faster, harder and better. Where Fight the Future went for big effects (remember the glorious tastelessness of its opening Oklahoma bombing recreation?) this is a sequel that aims to be quieter (!!), and fails…

This film believes itself to be a low-key emotional character study spliced with some deliciously grotesque shlock horror. Fox Mulder is a broken man (we know this because he has a beard) while Dana Scully is working as a doctor in a Catholic hospital. Scully is asked by the FBI to bring Mulder in for a consult on the case of a missing agent, as the only leads come from a psychic paedophile priest Fr Joe, played with surprisingly unshowy aplomb by Billy Connolly as a man tormented by his instincts and desperate for redemption and forgiveness. Mulder is rejuvenated by the case (he shaves off his beard) but Scully remains sceptical, some things never change.

This film never descends to George Lucas dialogue but most scenes between Mulder and Scully take five minutes to run thru three simple ideas; “You need to trust people again, take this job Mulder”, “This job has too much darkness Mulder, you should drop it”, and “This job is all I know how to do Scully”; these longeurs lead to musings –  like the hilarious notion that the militant atheism of Dawkins, so hip since 9/11, will be infuriated by the unashamed leaps of faith taken by Mulder and Scully in believing in the supernatural. Scully may doubt the existence of God as much as ever but she still curses him…

This film is too low-key for its own good. Chris Carter directed episodes of the TV show with more visual flair than he displays here. Amanda Peet and Xzibit do their level best with under-written roles as FBI agents. Callum Keith Rennie, a Canadian character actor best known for his Cylon in Battlestar Galactica and undercover cop in Due South, outshines them in lead support as a sinister Russian serial killer/organ-harvester. A suspenseful chase scene involving him is a highlight but such moments are offset by Scully’s sub-plot which is insultingly emotionally manipulative. It’s nice to see Mulder & Scully together again as older characters, but it would be better if they were in a worthy conspiracy laden sequel and not merely an efficient horror movie.

3/5

Blog at WordPress.com.