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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Feb 8, 2022



“CLEAN” is one of those action-thrillers about a quiet hero with a troubled past who is trying to live a life of redemption. 

It stars Adrien Brody, who won the Oscar best actor award playing the title role of “The Pianist” in 2002 when he was only 29 years old. 

It’s the true story of a Jewish pianist who successfully hid from the Nazis during the Holocaust.

His career didn’t really soar to great heights, although he starred in some hit action-fantasy flicks like the “King Kong” 2005 remake and “Predators”. 

He has appeared in many Wes Anderson films, including “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and the recent “French Dispatch”.

He now appears in a film that is a labor of love for him as he’s not only the lead actor but he also co-wrote it, co-produced it and did its musical score. The director is Paul Solet, with whom he also collaborated in the 2017 crime drama, “Bullet Head”.

In “Clean”, Brody plays a garbage collector named Clean who picks up the trash at the dead of night in the wintry surroundings and snow-covered streets of Utica, New York. 

He is a former addict who has recovered and is now clean but still attends rehab meetings.

He is very good in repairing things. He salvages broken appliances he gets in his rounds and can make them work again. 

He then re-sells them to a local pawn shop owned by rapper RZA. But Clean is a brooding loner who just keeps to himself and leads a very quiet, mysterious life.

Obviously, he has a deep, dark back story and this will be shown to us later. 

Brody effortlessly imparts his feelings of sadness and regret just through his lugubrious screen presence, with his haunted eyes that seems bottomless pits of tormented emotions betraying his pessimistic world view. 

In a voice over narration during one of his mournful musings, he says: “I’m still looking for the answers, but I just don’t know the questions anymore.” He adds later: “No matter how hard I try, I can’t wash away the past.”

He’s a basic do gooder in the place where he lives, like he erases the graffiti left by vandals on walls and helps in fixing rundown houses. 

Looks like he is doing it in efforts to seek redemption, including being friendly to a black girl, Dianda (Chandler Dupont), who lives with her grandma and to whom he gives some free food.

He is protective of the girl as she reminds him of his own daughter, also a black girl who is shown in a series of flashbacks that haunt his memories. 

When a group of black thugs try to rape Diana, he beats them all up savagely, using a big wrench (llave tubo in Tagalog). 

It so happened that one of the thugs he maimed is the teenage son of Michael  (Glenn Flehsler, we remember him for “True Detective” Season 1), a ruthlessly violent drug lord who uses a fish market as the front of his trafficking operations. 

Michael then targets Clean for revenge and also wants to kill Dianda and her grandma, so Clean has no choice but to defend them and fight back. 

The body count starts piling up as the henchmen of the drug lord’s boss try to gang up on Clean, Dianda and his grandma, but Clean is always one step ahead of them. The film’s climax is set at the house of the crime lord when Clean decides he won’t just wait for them but stages an offensive to attack them on his own. 

The choreography and execution of the action sequences here seem derivative, mainly from the John Wick films, particularly a scene where Clean opens up the mouth of a bad guy, putting the nose of his gun inside then pulling off the trigger. 

All these action sequences are filmed with cringe-inducing sound design. Clean is a sanitation worker and he certainly knows how to demolish a whole crew of thugs just using a small pick axe. 

He also makes his own make shift arsenal with ammunition pieces that easily blast off his opponents to kingdom come. 

And after all the bloodbath, there’s a twist towards the end as to who actually gets to kill the ruthless crime lord who’s about to decimate Clean. 

“Clean” is an action-thriller for those who go for this kind of brutal and bloody potboiler. It starts slow, rumbling a lot as it establishes the film’s very bleak, cold vibes and moody atmosphere. 

But once the action starts, you can expect the usual familiar beats and tropes we’ve come to expect in an action-thriller like this. 

It isn’t perfect but it can be fun as it’s a fairly good and indulgent genre exercise with Adrien Brody as the hard-edged, abrasive vigilante hero fully committed to his character.