“CLEAN” from director Paul Solet, is the Tribeca Film Festival offering in the crime-action genre. It also gives us Adrien Brody as writer/lead and impressive as that is, I can’t say I’m rolling out the ‘Welcome’ mat to Brody as an action star from this one.
Clean (Adrien Brody), seems to be just a simple salvage pick-up guy working the graveyard shifts and has a knack for fixing up items he picks up that can be repaired. Cool vintage stuff that actually brings in money and he has somewhat of a friendship with the pawn shop guy played by RZA. Then there is the random fact he always stops off to give a young girl Dianda (Chandler DuPont) lunch and make sure she gets to school. More like protecting her from the neighborhood, but we really aren’t clued in as to why.
On the other hand, we have the usual gaggle of Eastern European mobsters led by Michael (Glenn Fleshler), and he runs the neighborhood drug trade through his grandfathers old business, a fish market, smuggling the drugs in through fish. He’s also trying to teach his fresh out of jail, wanna-be gangsta rapper son Mikey (Richie Merritt), the trade, though things aren’t going well in that area.
To make a long story short and leave out the middle-man so to speak, we know from moment one that Clean is way more than a salvage man. We slowly find out his mobbed up background as he once was called ‘The Grim Reaper’ – I kid you not – as we also find him with a full tattoo of the Reaper on his back. This is right after we are slowly finding out why he is even protecting Dianda and her mother from harm as she it seems, reminds him of his daughter, whom has passed years earlier due to negligence on his part while being the Reaper. After he finds Mikey and his crew ready to take advantage of her and beats not only the whole crew to mere pulps, but Mikey to within a inch of his life. Of course his mobster dad isn’t pleased, and sends a gaggle of the mobsters after them all, which is where all of the ax/wrench/screwdriver/gun killings of dozens of people by only Clean himself all happen.
All in all, while not completely a mess, ‘Clean’ does fail to pass the spick and span test and is a messy story that we’ve seen all too many times before.
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“NOBODY” opens with Hutch Mansell (Bob Odenkirk), seemingly living the same mundane day over and over, a la ‘Groundhog Day’, and I’m guessing director Ilya Naishuller does this so we can identify with his character, feel comfortable with him, you know, like he is an old friend. Except this old friend’s life comes with a twist – a home burglary which leads to the break in the camels back, and awakens all that is really behind the killing machine otherwise known as ‘Nobody’.
Hutch Mansell is a mild mannered yokel who does the books for a steel refinery. He is also a sleeper agent (known as an ‘auditor’) who gets back into the game after his home is burgled. His home life isn’t the greatest, being somewhat persona non grata in his own home where his wife Becca (Connie Nielsen), a real estate agent, and his son Blake (Gage Munroe), go about their days as if he didn’t exist, he relies on getting attention only from his doting young daughter Abby (Paisley Cadorath). But one fateful night, a pair of armed thieves break into his home. At first he’s more than happy to give into their demands handing over some petty cash and his watch, but then his son jumps into fray and when it looks like he may get hurt, something, for a second, snaps in Hutch. He makes a move to thwart the robbery, but stops with a mid-golf club swing at the head, and thinks better of it. It’s only afterwards, when his daughter brings up a missing little kitty bracelet that she loves, that he gives a twitch and we know something is about to happen. He heads out to visit his aging father David (Christopher Lloyd), at an old folks home and borrows his FBI badge and gun.
When Hutch finally snaps, it’s on a public bus and he confronts a contingent of drunk partiers that just crashed their car into a block of cement, as yes, the bus driver let’s them on (sigh). This is when the film goes all out off the rails with the semi-ridiculous as Hutch takes them all on and ends up sending nearly all to the hospital. This of course prompts the expected backlash retaliation, as an uncle of one of the victims is none other than Yulian Kuznetsov (Aleksey Serebryakov). Yulian is a Russian money man who guards the mob’s bank and sings karaoke (but of course), and he goes all out on a rampage, even though once Hutch’s reputation is identified and made clear, it sends such fear, that one of Yulian’s junior associates literally packs up and leave. Then Hutch goes along his merry way and tracks down one of the thieves to a tattoo shop, but he’s snubbed by the owner, although we note a customer recognize a tattoo on Hutch’s wrist and disappears as if he’s seen the devil himself and in a way, I guess we could say he has.
The movie is rife with contradictions, like Hutch’s family’s basement/safe room, which also doubles as a special bone deleting furnace. The pacing is off and feels out of step at times as things just randomly happen with no build up, and other things just come way to easy for the good guys, while everyone else feels safe with no real threat around any corner. As always, a film like this is only as good as it’s villain. While they try to make Yulian a dark comedic one with the whole karaoke schticht, it just doesn’t work well as he and his gang are just not a likable enough, which is so key to making a movie like this work well. The movie has the same cliché of an army of faceless hitmen trespass on a suburban home, only for him to encounter them conveniently two at a time, until they’re all gone. The characters seem one dimensional and stereotypical, with the action being gimmicky and predictable, full of countless action flick clichés. There is zero depth to anyone, with almost nobody being likeable or interesting and it makes it all just bland, bland, bland. I could imagine this being something really special and different, if say his son Blake or his old buddy Harry (RZA) stepped in with him and made it a team – versus 82 yr old Christopher Lloyd. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to see him, but it is just beyond ridiculousness that he is machine gunning down 25 men at a time. Or even throw his boss Eddie (Michael Ironside), and his son Charlie (Billy MacLellan), as his side duo. Something to make it really interesting and different. And this goes for Odenkirk as well, as there was never a moment when I bought him as a badass who could take on six guys at once who are half his age. It was ultimately too much to swallow and he just seemed miscast here. Mind you, I understand these aren’t supposed to be realistic films, just entertaining, but we need to believe the ‘entertainment’ at hand so it will be.
Although not a bad movie or acting, it’s an all too familiar story that never strays far from the predictable former killer who is forced to use their old skills storyline. Of course, the body count is large, the fist fights fast, the shootings come at a mile a minute, and the explosions happen very frequently, with the end being just what we expect.
All things considered, “Nobody” is a just an okay ride.
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Review Screening: Courtesy of ~ Universal Pictures
“NOBODY” is available in theaters where available and on (VOD) Friday, April 16, 2021