Review: Code Name: The Cleaner (2007)

Code Name: The Cleaner (2007)

Directed by: Les Mayfield | 90 minutes | action, comedy, crime | Actors: Cedric the Entertainer, Lucy Liu, Nicolette Sherida, Mark Dacascos, Callum Keith Rennie, Niecy Nash, DeRay Davis, Will Patton, Kevin McNulty, BJ Davis, Bart Anderson, Tom Butler, Robert Clarke, Rick Tae, Kurt Max Runte, David Lewis, Gina Holden, Kimani Smith, Dave Hospes, Douglas Chapman, Brad Kelly, Nickolas Baric, Simon Burnett, Phillip Mitchell, Mike Desabrais, Maxine Miller, Jacqueline Ann Steuart

The American action comedy ‘Code Name: The Cleaner’ starts with a parody of ‘The Bourne Identity’, when we see the hero of the story, Jake, waking up in a hotel, next to a corpse staring at him with wide-open eyes. Jake Rogers (Cedric the Entertainer) has no idea who the murdered man is, how he ended up in the hotel and even worse: he has lost his own identity. However, protagonist Cedric the Entertainer is no Matt Damon and the exciting premise fails miserably. The makers seem to have had a hard time working out their idea for the film: are we making a comedy or an action thriller? That vacillating in two minds results in a film that is really nothing of both: an unfunny comedy and a thriller that lacks all possible tension.

When Jake flees the hotel, he is caught by Diane (Nicolette Sheridan), who claims to be his wife. However, both the viewer and Jake soon realize that the blonde has a hidden agenda and is only after something that Jake has in his possession. With the only clue being a receipt for something valuable that has been given into safekeeping, Jake returns to the hotel, where he gets past the police by dressing up as – perhaps more embarrassingly – a Dutch clog dancer. Of course he ends up on stage, where he performs an act that causes great hilarity among the massive crowd. It is a scene that will evoke vicarious shame in the Dutch viewer in particular. The precious thing that has been put into safekeeping turns out to be a chip card from Digital Arts Research Technologies. Meanwhile, Jake has flashbacks, in which he acts like a real spy, dealing with explosions and dangerous operations. He meets the graceful waitress Gina (Lucy Liu), who turns out not only to be Jake’s sweetheart, but as the film progresses she learns more about his situation.

The coincidences in the story demand a lot from the viewer and the film loses credibility. It is true that it is never the intention of an action comedy to evoke the ‘taken from life’ feeling in the viewer, but the script of ‘Code Name: The Cleaner’ does go very far in improbabilities. The main tension the creators are trying to create is the ambiguity whether Jake is a spy who has infiltrated the company as a cleaner, or whether he is a cleaner who just thinks he is a spy. However, this does not result in nail-biting moments, firstly because it is clear what Jake’s profession really is, secondly because it simply does not interest the viewer. The plot is hard to follow, and the viewer who still wants to enjoy the film a bit is advised not to make any effort, because the logic is simply missing. In addition, every joke that is made is so clearly pre-prepared that you might smile at the idea before showing it on screen, but when it actually happens, the moment is already over. So is the recurring joke that Jake keeps forgetting the briefcase with money on his flight, after one time already old. However, ‘Code Name: The Cleaner’ is not a complete failure. Lucy Liu and Cedric the Entertainer make a nice couple, who would do better together with a better script. The action scene at the end of the film is also worth watching. However, for that you have to endure a lot of bland humor and weak action scenes.

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