Saturday 14 January 2023

Movie Review: Cleaner (2007)

Genre: Crime Investigation Thriller
Director: Renny Harlin
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Ed Harris, Eva Mendes
Running Time: 88 minutes

Synopsis: In Trenton, New Jersey, widowed ex-police detective Tom Cutler (Samuel L. Jackson) now runs a crime scene cleanup business while raising his 14 year old daughter. After he cleans up a murder scene at an upscale residence, Cutler is surprised that the homeowner Ann Norcutt (Eva Mendes) seems to know nothing about the crime and believes her husband is simply missing. Tom turns to his ex-partner detective Lorenzo (Ed Harris) to uncover what is going on at the Norcutt household. He is drawn into an investigation headed by detective Vargas (Luis Guzm├ín) and possibly tarnished by police corruption.

What Works Well: The production quality is polished, the cleaner profession opens avenues for wry humour, and director Renny Harlin enjoys staging yucky scenes of Cutler mopping-up post-crime blood and gore splatter. Samuel L. Jackson and Ed Harris are always worth watching and here bring a tired knowingness to their roles as aging investigators. The running time is refreshingly crisp.

What Does Not Work As Well: The plot gets progressively worse, starting on a high note with a mysterious murder connected with high-level graft but working its way down to much more mundane territory. Eva Mendes struggles to convince at every stage. Plot points related to Cutler's dead wife, his role in a prison yard death, the complex friendship with Lorenzo, and the strained relationship with his daughter all occupy plenty of space but ultimately bump against narrative dead ends. In a relatively sparse cast, the villain of the piece is easy to spot.

Conclusion: The crime scene is intriguing, but the clean-up is sloppy.

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