Friday, January 05, 2007

Code Name: The Cleaner

CODE NAME: THE CLEANER (Les Mayfield, 2007)

In CODE NAME: THE CLEANER Jake Rodgers (Cedric the Entertainer) wakes up in a hotel room next to a dead FBI agent and a briefcase containing $250,000. Not only doesn't he remember how he got there, but Jake has also forgotten who he is, even his name. The painful head wound is the likely culprit for his amnesia, but Jake knows enough that he better hightail it out of there before someone finds him.

In the hotel lobby Diane (Nicolette Sheridan) greets Jake and claims to be his wife. He can't determine if she's telling the truth or not, and he doesn't really care when she brings him home to a mansion. Diane seems overly concerned about restoring his memory, though. Jake overhears her conversation with a doctor and thinks better of sticking around to find out if she is (and he is) who she says.

Jake has little to go on to remember his identity. He has intermittent flashbacks that suggest he's a special ops combat veteran, but the only physical clue he has is a hotel claim check ticket that produces a keycard for Digital Arts, a Seattle video game company. Stopping for a bite to eat at a diner across from Digital Arts, Jake encounters Gina (Lucy Liu), a waitress who claims to be his girlfriend and contradicts everything Diane told him.

If only Jake's loss of memory was extended to those seeing CODE NAME: THE CLEANER. This dire comedy deserves to be dropped in a vat of solvent to remove its stink. Directed by Les Mayfield, who helmed the equally horrendous THE MAN with Samuel L. Jackson and Eugene Levy, CODE NAME: THE CLEANER doesn't contain jokes so much as desperate flailing for attention.

Whether you think Cedric the Entertainer is funny or not is irrelevant. The best comedian couldn't get laughs from the skeletal humor. CODE NAME: THE CLEANER is a series of brainstormed ideas--Jake steps on a broken lamp, Jake hits golf balls into a residential area, Jake dances with a Dutch troupe--and little more. The performances aren't anything special, but maybe they're better than believed. How else can the actors deliver this crap with a straight face?

The mystery of Jake's true identity frustrates more than intrigues and takes an inordinate amount of time to set up. This isn't MEMENTO. The flimsy script, which incredibly has two credited screenwriters, takes more than half of the film's running time to establish first act information. We don't need to know the secret of who Jake is, but it would be nice to have some idea of what's going on rather than getting obvious misdirects. This is supposed to be a comedy instead of a thriller, not that it satisfies the expectations of either.

CODE NAME: THE CLEANER should have the alias The Watch Checker. It's one of those movies where you strain to check the time and despair that you're only twenty minutes in, then thirty-five minutes in, and so on.

Grade: F

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