CODE NAME: THE CLEANER – George S. Clinton
Original Review by Clark Douglas
“Code Name: The Cleaner” is a silly, potentially entertaining little comedy that doesn’t work because it does the last thing any silly, potentially entertaining little comedy should do… it takes itself far too seriously.
Let me explain. A man wakes up in bed next to a dead (fully-clothed) FBI Agent. The man can’t remember anything, and has a head wound. There’s a case with $250,000 in it on the bed. And wouldn’t you know it, there’s apparently some people who want this man to be dead, too. Now, this man I speak of is played by Cedric the Entertainer, one of the most likable comedians in the business. It’s been hard for me to pinpoint why I enjoy watching Cedric’s performances so very much, but seeing this film, I think I’ve got it: Cedric brings an infectious enthusiasm to every part he plays, even when the part is mundane and typical.
Yes, this is frankly a boring spy plot, and no wonder, considering director Les Mayfield has brought us such cringe-inducing stuff as “American Outlaws”, “Encino Man”, “The Man”, and the pathetic remakes of “Flubber” and “Miracle on 34th Street”. Here’s how it takes itself too seriously… the movie not only has a boring spy plot, but it spends way too much time focusing on the man-who-has-amnesia-might-be-a-spy-or-might-just-be-a-janitor plot developments, and way too little time letting Cedric do his thing. Yes, occasionally the plot will give way to some silliness (no fair telling what leads to Cedric spanking an old woman in an elevator), but most of the time, it’s straight-laced action-comedy fare, complete with the ever hard-boiled Lucy Liu looking particularly grim. Do we really care about the details of this story? No, but oddly, that’s the center of attention, with the truly amusing bits serving merely as trimming.
Still, I hold no grudges towards the movie… it is certainly a bearable 82 minutes, partially because Cedric puts such gusto into the movie, and partially because it’s only 82 minutes. I liked the way Cedric becomes convinced from the very start that he is a C.I.A. Agent or a spy of some sort. He may have lost his memory, but he’s seen enough movies and TV shows to know that if you’ve lost your memory, you’re probably a spy. The fact that Cedric assumes he has some sort of remarkable physical combat abilities to go along with his forgotten spy life provides further amusement. But despite his best efforts, Cedric can only carry the movie so far… he’s given virtually no help by the script, or by the supporting cast. Lucy Liu is pretty good, but everyone else is a bit on the uninteresting side (Nicolette Sheridan is rather terrible as a woman claiming to be Cedric’s wife). By the way, if you ever wanted to see Nicolette Sheridan do a striptease, here’s your chance. Let me give you fair warning… it is not a pretty sight. Cedric behaves as if he’s quite enthralled, I imagine that took some real acting skills.
The score is provided by none other than George S. Clinton, who is best known for his work on the “Austin Powers” films. For this particularly spy comedy, he takes an approach more akin to David Arnold than John Barry. Actually, it doesn’t so much resemble Arnold’s Bond scores as his work on John Singleton films, something like “Four Brothers” or especially “Baby Boy”. The music is entertaining enough… cool R&B grooves backed by slightly cheesy drum loops… but it rarely rises above a boil, mostly content to simmer in the background as a hip backdrop to the proceedings. It’s also a little on the repetitive side. Still, it works… this isn’t the sort of film that demands anything more than what Clinton provides.
I can’t really recommend “Code Name: The Cleaner” to anyone other than Cedric’s most loyal fans (or Nicolette Sheridan’s very, very eager followers), but as I said, it’s pleasant enough. There will most assuredly be worse comedies this year. If you’re looking for a few pleasant laughs, you might consider giving it a rent once it hits DVD, but it’s certainly not worth making a trip to the theatre.
- Crime Scene/Mansion (1:54)
- The Beginning (6:32)
- Tulip Tour/Dutch Dance/Transition (4:35)
- Villainy (2:53)
- Skittles (1:07)
- Flashback/Hot Buns 69 (2:50)
- Meeting Riley/Airport Chase (5:12)
- Dump/Another Time/To DART (3:24)
- The Chip/Ah-Oh (9:00)
- Jake and Gina/Game (4:54)
Running Time: 42 minutes 21 seconds
Varèse Sarabande VSD-6785 (2007)
Music composed and conducted by George S. Clinton. Recorded and mixed by Steve Kempster. Edited by Mike Flicker. Album produced by George S. Clinton.