"Cleaner" DVD Review
May 12, 2008 by Zach Demeter
Iíve come across a slew of titles since reviewing DVDs that Iíve never seen or heard of before. Some either left theaters in a hurry or others, like Cleaner here, simply never made it and instead went straight to DVD. While itís obvious why they made the jump like that for the most part, some have some incredibly entertaining bits to them that you wonder why they didnít at least try to market it in theaters. Like the poorly advertised Resurrecting the Champ vehicle with Samuel L. Jackson, Cleaner, once again starring Jackson, will hopefully find a fair home on DVD.
Ex-cop Tom Carver (Samuel L. Jackson) got into the cleaning business when he got off the force. Except this wasnít the usual cleaningóno, Carver cleaned up crime scenes. After the cops and crime scene investigators do their work, itís up to the family to take care of the mess left behind. Since this is often not something they can mentally deal with, Carver is often hired to take care of these scenes with his special blend of sprays, cleansers and chemicals. Everything seems to be going well in Carverís world until he inadvertently cleans up a crime scene that had never been inspected. Once the cops get whiff of a missing person they expect to be dead, their eyes start focusing in on Carver.
On the outside Cleaner is a star studded affair with Samuel L. Jackson, Ed Harris and Eva Mendes starring. Purely from the cast standpoint I was surprised this film didnít see a theatrical release and for whatever reason Sony designated it to be a DVD-only release. Itís a shame because while the film eventually fell apart in the end, the first hour of the film was really one of the best written, directed and acted films Iíd seen in awhile. Unfortunately the ending so horribly botched it that I couldnít ever see myself watching the film again, but the film really was something to see until the ďtwistsĒ started popping up.
The filmís directing is what impressed me most. The way some of the shots were set up and directed was just absolutely superb to me and I was immediately impressed with just how the film looked. By the time the story got rolling I really got into it and was incredibly confused as to how the film couldnít have seen a theatrical release, but the weak and unbelievable ending made the whole thing hard to swallow.
I really got into the whole ex-cop angle of Jacksonís character and the old friends of Ed Harris and Luis Guzman really felt authentic to me. What didnít work at all was the films surprise ending to see who was really behind the crime scene that Carver unwittingly cleaned up. There will be spoilers going forward here, so youíve been warned.
The big twist in the film is that the one behind the murder and setting Carver up is his old friend played by Ed Harris. Now I donít have a problem believing Harrisís character in the least; what I do have issue with is that he seemingly killed Mendesís husband because she and Harris were having an affair. Apparently Mendesís husband had a vasectomy and couldnít have kids, but after Mendes got pregnant with Harrisís baby, she claimed she miscarried so her husband wouldnít find out about the affair. Seeking revenge, Harrisís character killed Mendes husband because he thought her husband forced her to have an abortion.
When the film sets it up as some big crime drama you donít really expect it come down to something as simple as someone getting pregnant, but that I could still take. What I couldnít believe was that Mendesís character would have an affair with Ed Harrisísóheís an older, balding white male that really has no character traits that a young, rich female would have any interest in. Their relationship isnít explained at all and is completely and 100% unbelievable. The scenes with the two together have about as much chemistry asÖwell, as much as Mendes and Harris would have in real life. Itís just not what you wanted from a film that set itself up to be a fair and able bodied crime drama.
Spoilers end now, for those skipping ahead. I was so thoroughly impressed by the first hour of the film, but the last half hour simply ruined it for me. With the films scant ninety-minute run time I felt like another half hour couldíve been dedicated to building up more clues and plot devices to help the ending not come so abruptly, but alasÖthatís not the way the final product came out. While thereís no replay value for the film at all, I really do recommend at least Renting the film as it starts out at a steady pace and blazes on through and will keep you entertained for the entire hour and a half, even if you find yourself questioning just whose idea it was to come up with the big ďtwist.Ē
Cleaner arrives on DVD on a single disc with an embossed and shiny slipcover. Inside the packaging is the disc art (with unique art not seen anywhere else on the packaging). Also inside the single disc amaray case is an insert with the information and activation key for the digital copy included with this DVD. One thing that really impressed me was the menus; I rarely include menu shots in my DVD reviews simply because snapping the shot each time can get to be rather tedious, but I was so in love with the simple and elegant nature of the menu layout that I had to snap the main menu at least. While the scene selection menu was awkward (only left and right navigation arrows, with an up arrow in the middle that took you back to the main menuóno text telling you so, so itís a bit vague if you donít know your way around a DVD menu), the rest of the menus were all really well done. I donít often get impressed with menu design, especially when thereís no animation involved, but the layout and styling of it all just looked really impressed. Not surprising considering how well done a lot of the shots and cinematography was in the film.
Moving onto the extras for the disc we first find a commentary with director Renny Harlin who takes us through the paces of what itís like to make this ninety-minute crime film. Itís a rather by-the-books commentary, but he throws in a few neat tidbits and comments on some of the more ďartsyĒ shots done in the film. The rest of the extras on the set consist of six deleted scenes (15:18), all in 2.35:1 aspect ratio smushed inside of a 4:3 frame. There are some character building sequences here as well as some rather artsy sequences. A few of these scenes wouldíve been nice to have in the movie, but werenít enough to make up for the lackluster ending.
Overall Cleaner falls short of coming recommended just because of the blasted outcome of the story. Still itís worth a Rental at the very least just for the superbly well done first hour.
Cleaner arrives on DVD on May 27th.