And so 2007 begins, not with a bang, but a cinematic diuretic, meant to secrete any trace of goodwill Hollywood has sent us during Oscar Season™. Worse, the assholes weren’t even kind enough to offer up a blatant travesty, instead offering the most tepid kind of comedy, one that I can’t even megaloathe simply due to the presence of Cedric the Entertainer, who is so goddamn likable that I can’t even work up the bile that Code Name: The Cleaner so obviously deserves. It’s tantamount to drunkenly accepting the advances of the uber-nice, hairy-chinned coed with a face full of pustules simply because you don’t want to hurt her feelings.
Still, I’d hate to lead anyone on here, for fear that Cedric starts drunk-dialing me in the middle of the night to torment me for not completely rebuffing him. You’re not getting into my metaphorical britches, Mr. the Entertainer. Consider my zipper locked shut to your ingratiating charms, particularly when they come under the guise of The Cleaner, which is atrocious in every conceivable sense. I mean, c’mon: You’re going to give us janitor-raps about “doo-doo”? — “Don’t rush me, ‘cause I’m not diarrhea.” Maybe not, but your film is awfully fucking close.
The Cleaner opens in a hotel bed, where Jake (the Entertainer) wakes up next to a dead FBI agent; his memory is on the fritz, so he doesn’t even know his own name. See, it’s just like The Bourne Identity, only instead of Matt Damon, we’re given Cedric the Entertainer; instead of a rogue government agent, we’re given a freakin’ janitor; instead of Franka Potente, we’re given Lucy Liu; and instead of a quality action flick, we’re given The Cleaner. Happy Fucking New Year.
So, after reminding himself to “breathe in the beautiful; breathe out the nasty,” Jake escapes the hotel with a suitcase full of money (but not before repeatedly spanking an old lady) where he’s intercepted by Diane (beloved “Desperate Housewives” drag queen Nicollette Sheridan), who poses as his wife, eliciting this response, “I’m married to a white woman? Who am I? Lionel Ritchie?” That’s funny, see? Because Lionel Ritchie married a white woman
and fathered Nicole* and … oh, nevermind. Sadly, it’s the funniest line in the entire film.
But, as it turns out, Diane is not really his wife (making the whole Lionel Ritchie joke kind of moot), which he learns when she tries to pump him full of sodium pentothal and speed, something which I would’ve happily accepted. Jake vamooses and ultimately winds up at a diner, where he discovers that he’s dating Gina (Lucy Liu), a Valley Girl waitress with the best ghetto attitude that Liu can muster. And let me just say this about Lucy Liu: Quentin Tarantino freakin’ pulled you out of the hellhole that was a career of Charlie’s Angels sequels and Ecks vs. Sever and gives you the best role of your godforsaken career, and this is how you repay the world? By appearing in a film in which you’re asked to call Cedric “Blambo,” i.e., the Black Rambo? Fuck all.
So, Jake gets it in his head that he’s a super-duper double-secret spy, on account of the flashes of memory he does retain coming from a goddamn video game. He soon discovers, however, that he is not in fact Blambo or even, for that matter, Ghost Dog (*whisper* The Way of the Samurai *close whisper*). But he does love him some Skittles, something to which he refers to at least 4,327 times (taste this rainbow, dumbass). And apparently he also know where to find a certain computer chip that is capable of all matters of encryption, which makes him the target that all the baddies must track down. Let the inanity ensue.
Thankfully, the screenwriters behind The Cleaner (George Gallo and Robert Adetuyi) are familiar with the one secret of every great mystery: Telegraph the entire resolution within the first five minutes of the film, thereby ensuring that no one will lose sight of your goddamn Ricola joke. You know, because a large black man dressed in a Dutch outfit and doing the Amsterdam Lord of the Dance is, like, comedic bliss; the way that Cedric combines traditional Netherlandic folk dancing and bad hip-hop moves is close to orgasmic. Hang on a sec — I’ve got to retract my eyes from the back of my skull.
A cursory examination of Rotten Tomatoes reveals that The Cleaner has at least kicked off the new year on a high note — a solid 5 percent Tomatometer, the lone positive review coming from the L.A. Times, which makes me kind of giddy, knowing all those poor hapless souls out in Los Angeles who listen to Michael Ordona will undoubtedly spend 91 minutes in hell this weekend. And really, what’s more satisfying than the misery of a few empty-headed Angelenos? Somebody has to ensure that Cedric the Entertainer stays relevant long enough to land a role that befits his charisma, right?
Dustin Rowles is the publisher of Pajiba. He lives with his wife in Ithaca, New York. You may email him, or leave a comment below.
Code Name: The Cleaner / Dustin Rowles
Film Reviews | January 4, 2007 | Comments ()