CLEAN (2022)

Greetings again from the darkness. “The trash man wasn’t always a trash man.” Writer-director Paul Solet re-teams with his BULLET HEAD (2017) star, Oscar winner Adrien Brody, who not only has the lead, but also co-wrote the script, produced the film, and gets a “Music by” credit. Following in the cinematic footsteps of John Wick or most any recent Liam Neeson character, this trash man is the lone beacon of hope possessing a particular set of skills that he uses to escape peril, save the innocents, and generally rid the world of bad guys. He’s the avenging angel of Utica.

On the job, Brody’s character is referred to as “Clean”, and he’s so mechanically inclined that he often salvages items from his route, repairs them with parts he gathers from the junk yard where he feeds the guard dog, and then sells the refurbished goods at the pawn shop run by RZA. When he’s not working the garbage truck, Clean whitewashes the graffiti from the ramshackle homes in his hood, and brings homecooked meals to Dianda (Chandler DuPont), a local girl who lives with her grandmother. Now you might wonder how one man can accomplish so much, and the answer is that he barely sleeps. He’s haunted by demons of his own past via nightmares and flashbacks. It’s through these that we learn Dianda reminds him of the daughter he lost, and his past is one filled with violent images.

Clean attends group therapy sessions and has support from a “sponsor” played by Mykelti Williamson. Of course, as we’ve come to expect from this genre, past violence and efforts to redeem himself, won’t insulate him from modern day violence. In an early voice-over, a tormented Clean offers up a TAXI DRIVER-loner-style philosophy as he discusses the sad state of the streets, and a “sea of filth”. One particular good deed involving Dianda, places Clean in the deep end of that sea he finds so disgusting. It’s also a sea he masterfully maneuvers.

That good (and violent deed) finds Clean crossing paths with local drug kingpin Michael (a menacing Glenn Fleshler), who runs his operation through the fish market he inherited from his grandfather. Michael’s wannabe-gangster son Mikey (Richie Merritt, WHITE BOY RICK) doesn’t appreciate his dad’s “smell of success” and is the reason Clean and Michael square off. This also causes the big reveal in regards to Clean’s past life, and explains his proficient use of a screwdriver and pipe wrench.

For those familiar with this genre and its use of violence, you’ll notice many of the familiar and expected components. It’s really Mr. Brody’s expertise as a master mumbler, and his character’s (initially) low-key approach to improving the neighborhood, that provide the touch of difference making this watchable.

Opens on January 28, 2022


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