Judge Brett Cullum likes watching the ladies in Code Name: The Cleaner. The rest of the film, not so much.
Jake Rodgers: I'm the Black Rambo!
A man wakes up in a strange hotel room, and has no idea where or who he is. There's a dead FBI agent in the bed, and our amnesiac hero has a mysterious wound on his head. Soon a woman meets him in the lobby claiming to be his wife, and she tries everything to get his memory back. She seems dangerous and obsessed with retrieving something hidden in his fractured memory, so he runs. Every person he meets sees him as something completely different. The man is either a super spy or simply a poor janitor who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He's got to recall everything before people kill him or a dangerous microchip developed by a Seattle video game manufacturer threatens the world. Anyone who saw the trailer for Code Name: The Cleaner knows the rest of the story, and anyone unlucky enough to catch the entire film may wish they too could get hit upside the head and forget the last hour and a half. It's not as funny as an episode of Get Smart, and the idea of turning The Bourne Identity into a situation comedy is abysmal at best.
Cedric the Entertainer (The Honeymooners) needs a new agent, or he's seriously in danger of losing that last part of his name. Code Name: The Cleaner is an unforgivably bland comedy crafted out of elements from The Bourne Identity and a 1990 movie where Charlie Sheen and Emilio Estevez are garbage men called Men at Work. It's hardly entertaining, and far too concerned with being likable to ever do anything inventive. Director Les Mayfield (Flubber) fails with both the thriller and comedy bits that provide wooden and predictable moments that are telegraphed miles away. There's not enough humor, and the serious moments are contrived. The actual script apparently had few intended laughs, and we see through the end credits and making-of featurette the actors improvised every punch line on the set as they shot. The only time the movie is even giggle worthy is when Cedric is let loose from his bland "I'm a chump who thinks he's a spy" prison, and allowed to give marginally funny improvisations about pop culture.
About the best reason I can give for even glancing in this movie's direction is the chance to see Lucy Liu (Charlie's Angels) and Nicolette Sheridan (Desperate Housewives) in underwear. Both ladies look incredible, and they get a climactic martial arts cat fight inter cut with a bubble bath fantasy where they get dangerously close to making out. Makes no sense to me either, but at least it was eye candy and nowhere near as boring as the rest of the flick. Both women are good sports, and Liu is becoming a pretty talented martial artist so at least that part works. Her role here is similar to the one she got in Lucky Number Slevin, which is a better movie that knows what it wants to be. Sheridan is harder to analyze because she is given one note to play, the rich bitch out for herself. She allows some of her natural comic timing to shine through, but we quickly realize her turn on Desperate Housewives is by far the best work for her persona.
New Line presents a competent DVD treatment for the mishandled comedy thriller. The widescreen transfer and sound mix are above average, and the whole affair looks and sounds fine. The color palette is appropriately aggressive for a comedy, and it holds up well. Edge enhancement is not a problem, and sharpness and detail hold up well. The sole special feature is an agreeable making-of featurette that allows all the leads to speak about their input into the movie, though most just go on and on about how talented Cedric is. The featurette is better than your average studio produced fluff, and it does give insight into what the ultimate goal was with the project. There were some good ideas, but somehow they all got lost in the translation.
Code Name: The Cleaner isn't even funny when they show bloopers and alternate takes over the closing credits. Cedric the Entertainer is a talented comic with a real flair for physical humor, but he's recklessly selecting the bland family comedy projects that took all the edge from people like Steve Martin. He seems determined to shed the urban persona he created as a standup performer. I can understand him not wanting to do endless Barbershop sequels, but he's doing a disservice to his own career when he chooses films this banal. This project falls flat as it makes a generic stab at the spy spoof, and the movie will only work as a late night cable choice when you're probably too drunk to care and surrounded by infomercials. Fans of Cedric, Lucy Liu, and Nicolette Sheridan might be mildly entertained, but there's not much here to champion. Oddly enough the film does feature Iron Chef America's chairman (Mark Dacascos) as one of the main bad guys, but unfortunately he neither gets to cook or shout "Allez cuisine!" at anyone. Code Name: The Cleaner could have been better, but it's simply a mess that needs a good scrubbing or two.
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