Cleaner Renny Harlin

Cleaner Renny Harlin
Renny Harlin makes an effort to step away from acid laced cigarettes, zany pirates and fiercely intelligent sharks with Cleaner, a film that wants to be a clever ’70s-style crime thriller but winds up bearing more similarities to a television procedural. It’s a character study with a disconnected and self-conscious feel, as well as a mystery with glaringly obvious twists. Nothing fully gels in Cleaner but it never falls apart either; it’s a bland and relatively inoffensive entry into the crime mystery genre. Ex-police officer Tom Carver (Samuel L Jackson) is the single father to daughter Rose (Keke Palmer) and spends his days professionally cleaning up after violent crimes. After a routine cleaning, Tom learns that he has been deceived into scrubbing up a crime scene before the police have been able to examine it. Fearing the repercussions, Tom decides to hide his mistake from the determined Detective Wallace (Luis Guzman), while confiding in his old partner Eddie Lorenzo (Ed Harris) and becoming involved with a mysterious widow (Eva Mendes). Harlin’s direction is almost mechanical in its close-up dissection of routine tasks and constant tracking shots. While there is an aesthetic appeal to the overt stylisation, there is also an emotional distancing that comes about that leaves the audience unable to connect with the characters and their plights. Also problematic is the disappointingly wooden performance delivered by Mr. Jackson. Generally a pleasure to watch, Jackson struggles with his rigid character here, offering kitschy emotional reactions and empty stares. The other thesps handle the material professionally enough but the standout performance comes from supporting actress Maggie Lawson as Jackson’s sassy assistant. She steals her scenes with a natural on-screen charisma that will surely be recognised soon enough. The DVD features the increasingly trendy digital PSP-friendly version of the film, as well as Renny Harlin’s director commentary and deleted scenes that focus mostly on a quiet and reflective Jackson, which add little insight to the film. (Sony)