Reel Reviews | Code Name: The Cleaner

by Tim Gordon

Hello All, this will be the first of many entries as I document my life as a film critic and enthusiast. As an introduction, this being January and now through the next three months, people like myself will have to sit through not just bad but damn near unwatchable movies.

Why you ask? Well simply, many of the films that will be released in the spring are movies that a) were not good enough to be dramatic fare in the fall, b) not marketable enough to be summer films, or c) films that were supposed be released during another time of the year and simply were moved to this time of the year for a slim chance of making some money back before they go to DVD and pay cable.

Another phenomenon that occurs frequently during this season is also the “cold opening.” The term represents the studios SERIOUS belief that many of these films are terrible and they hope that if they don’t show them to critics and just release them with no reviews they can take the first weekend grosses and run the films right out of theatres and quickly to DVD. Last year’s cold opens were such cinematic “gems” such as Aeon Flux, Ultraviolet, Snakes on Planes” and many more. The irony of the cold open is that critics have to pay to see films that are so bad the studios won’t show them to us for free!

So I kick off 07 with Code Name: The Cleaner starring Cedric the Entertainer. Quick cinematic background on Ced; he’s had 18 movies since 1998, most them varying in degrees from bad to putrid. I’m sure he’s a nice guy who has to make a living, but critics who make a living know not to get too excited when his films are released.

And just as I suspected, I found myself smiling but not laughing at a mildly amusing story of a man who’s lost his memory and thinks he’s a super spy when in reality he is a janitor who assists in-game designing. On the surface, that would make a good Wednesday night movie of the week on late, late night cable, but not a green lit Hollywood film.

My problem with Ced and Steve Harvey, his partner and sidekick, is that there is one thing to acknowledge the black experience, but these gentlemen wallow in it. I understand that you (Ced) are surprised to believe that you live in a mansion, but must you have copies of Jet, ask the butler to put plastic on your chairs and remark that you have a “white wife and a lot of money, so you must be Lionel Ritchie” pass as comedy?

Don’t forget his janitorial co-worker (DeRay Davis) who wants to be a rapper. One scene has him at gunpoint asking to be shot with the hope that “if he dies he’s Tupac and if he lives he’s 50 Cent.” I won’t even go into him asking to be shot in the ass, with just a little “too much enthusiasm!”

As a side note, the only thing that made this film watchable was the ultra-fine Lucy Liu. As I remarked to a friend, I could watch Liu reading the phone book and she can salvage most films; hell she did for this one.

By the time the film limps home (and I’m standing by the door ready to bolt), I hear someone say, “This is the worst s**t I’ve seen in a long time.” Sadly Ced, I agree – and it’s the first movie I’ve seen this year. Damn, if this one makes $20 million, next year I’ll have to sit through Code Name: Even Cleaner!