Movie review: ‘Code Name: The Cleaner’

OK, the film “Code Name: The Cleaner” isn’t a good motion picture (even its poster stinks) and the best thing that I can say about it is that it is a watchable TV movie. It doesn’t have much going for it – there’s no evidence of acting and it has that made-for-TV special look about it. However, you can sit through “Code Name: The Cleaner” and have a little fun, since Cedric the Entertainer is funny and obviously enjoying his work in the role. Just don’t expect too much from “Code Name: The Cleaner” or wonder if there will be a surprise breakout by an actor (although Niecy Nash comes closest as “Jacuzzi”). All in all it’s a mess … a less than average film. However, since it’s making the cable movie channel rounds now, it’s available and a break from the usual.

‘Code Name: The Cleaner’
(2007; 84 minutes; rated PG-13; directed by Les Mayfield and starring Cedric the Entertainer, Lucy Liu and Nicollette Sheridan)

SHOULD HAVE CLEANED UP THE IDEA FIRST

Code Name: The Cleaner” is a film that is difficult to describe. The actors (or at least most of them) don’t do good work; the cinematography is so-so (although it’s nice that its locations are Seattle and not Burbank); and you cannot turn around without hitting a stereotype. So, why should you watch “Code Name: The Cleaner?” Because it’s on cable and its few good points overcome all the negatives that should make you change the channel.

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Code Name: The Cleaner” scored an amazingly bad ranking from the Rotten Tomatoes website and Nicollette Sheridan earned a nomination at the 28th Golden Raspberry awards for worst supporting actress, but while both are deserved … they’re not exactly accurate. Neither one is THAT bad and, like an annoying family member, both “Code Name: The Cleaner” and Sheridan can kind of grow on you. Maybe.

One thing that I believe is inaccurate in the Rotten Tomatoes lambasting of the film is that somewhere in the rundown of the film it notes “cheesy” martial arts. Well, most of them, with the exception of the penultimate fight, are pretty much Cedric the Entertainer being entertaining with martial arts moves from a video game. To even think this film should be judged by its martial arts shows an astounding lack of intelligence by any critic.

Cedric the Entertainer does a surprisingly good job carrying this film as he is in just about every scene. I’m not saying he’s a good actor, but he does show flashes of thespian talent and he’s just fun to watch – kind of like he’s doing standup with a few segues as nod to this being a film and all. He doesn’t have any pretentions to acting greatness (the scene where he spanks an elderly woman in an elevator in a flashback scene is not Oscar worthy, but he’s good with it and it works), but he also knows how to play to an audience – and not all actors have this quality. He’s watchable and that’s all you need to know.

The plot of “Code Name: The Cleaner” is simple: Cedric (that’s what I’m calling him now) plays “Jake Rodgers” and the film starts with him waking up in a motel room with a dead FBI agent in bed with him. Uh-oh, cue the stereotype alert. Of course he doesn’t have a memory of anything (he got clocked on the head and this has caused temporary amnesia) and we’re off to the races as he’s pursued for something he doesn’t remember having.

Of course bits and pieces come back to him, but not before Sheridan tries to tweak his memory by pretending to be his wife (complete with sashaying around in a bra and thong panties for his excitement as part of getting his memory back —- right, that’s why!); he runs into Lucy Liu, who’s a waitress in a diner (she might or might not be his girlfriend); and his memory begins staggering back and he begins piecing the whole thing together and he winds up saving the day and is the hero he always imagined himself.

Actually, the story isn’t bad or sodden with clichés or stereotypes (remember that’s “not sodden;” I didn’t say it doesn’t have them aplenty) and moves along briskly. Of course everything gets sorted out in the end – even though the catfight finale between Liu and Sheridan is nothing more than pedestrian (and nowhere near the classic between Charlize Theron and Teri Hatcher in “2 Days in the Valley” — click here for my review).

Here’s a rundown of some of the principal cast and their work:

  • As I already noted, Cedric is competent here. I actually liked him a lot here because of his breezy lack of taking himself seriously. He’s especially competent with talking to himself as a way of communicating with the audience and is just generally affable and likable. Cedric’s career includes just about everything from television (“The Steve Harvey Show”) to comedy (“The Original Kings of Comedy”) to voicing films (“Madagascar”). He was “Ralph Kramden” in “The Honeymooners” movie.
  • Liu plays “Gina,” who you first believe might be a waitress – but you don’t believe it for long. Liu battles Sheridan as the female lead, but simply put: she stinks in the role. Liu wasn’t the best casting choice; doesn’t do anything with the character; and her windmill-like slapping at Cedric when she’s mad is just about the most stupid attempt at physical comedy I’ve seen in a film in the past decade. So … no observable talent; no energy in the role; and … well, add it all up and you have nothing. Liu was also similarly miscast in the “Charlie’s Angels” film franchise and with the same outcome. Liu was marginally better in “Kill Bill: Vol. 1.”
  • Niecy Nash is “Jacuzzi” here and “Code Name: The Cleaner” could have used a whole lot more of her. She has verve. She has sass. She has energy and, after Cedric, has the most fun with her role. Nash is Cedric’s friend, who has to be locked in the trunk of Liu’s car at one point. Her comebacks at the end of the film to Cedric are marvelous. I wish there had been screen time added for her. Nash has been in a ton of television stuff, but none funnier than her work in “Reno 911!” and was in an episode of one of my TV favorites: “Monk.”
  • The other notable supporting actor is DeRay Davis as the rap-spouting, can’t-sit-still friend “Ronnie.” Davis, like Nash, is energetic and gets more into his character than Sheridan and Liu combined. Davis was in “21 Jump Street” and “G.I. Joe: Retaliation.”

The rest of the cast doesn’t bear mentioning other than the biggest bad guy is Mark Dacasos as “Eric Hauck” and Callum Keith Rennie as evil FBI Agent “Shaw” (why do they all have one name except for Cedric’s character?). Dacsos appears as if he majored in cosmetic surgery with a resulting lack of ability to give a facial expression, while Hauck is a somewhat decent bad guy but just doesn’t have the talent to make this one a notable effort. Dacasos was in “Cradle 2 the Grave” and Rennie in “Fifty Shades of Grey.”

Code Name: The Cleaner” was a deplorable bomb with moviegoers as it took in only $8.1 million for 155th place at theaters for 2007, according to Box Office Mojo. It bombed completely with earning only $10.1 million including video sales on its $20 million budget, according to Wiki. The only film of note that “Code Name: The Cleaner” bettered at the box office is the poker film “Lucky You” by Curtis “L.A. Confidential” Hanson and starring Robert Duvall and Drew Barrymore and Eric Bana (No. 175 with $5.7 million). The No. 1 film of the year was “Spider-Man 3” with $336.5 million. Here are a few films from that year that I have reviewed:

Assorted cast notes (via IMDb.com):

  • Cedric the Entertainer’s real name is Cedric Antonio Kyles and IMDb.com notes that he capitalized the “T” in “the” in his name in the film. He’s apparently since dropped the capitalization.
  • Elizabeth Hurley was originally considered to play the role given to Sheridan. I’m not a Hurley fan, but she’s lucky she didn’t go with this one. Sheridan was perfect as she stepped out of her “Desperate Housewives” comfort zone.
  • IMDb.com’s trivia page has only one entry and you just read about it with the Hurley entry above.

© Chuck Curry and A Gator in Naples, 2015.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without
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