What happens when someone is killed in your home? The police come and examine the crime scene, the body is removed and you are left with the aftermath, the blood stained carpet, walls and furniture which needs to be dealt with. The opening to "Cleaner" is deliciously macabre as we listen to Samuel L. Jackson's character Tom Cutler describe what he does, he cleans up this mess with his own formula of cleaner. Sadly despite this delicious opening and a decent cast "Cleaner" ends up a surprisingly dull movie which quickly falls back on a formula which sees Tom being set up and having to try and work out what is going on to clear his name which like the formula ends up very ordinary.
Tom Cutler (Samuel L. Jackson - Snakes on a Plane) use to be a cop, but events surrounding the murder of his wife and then the death of the man who killed her led him to quit the force and becoming a crime scene specialist, that is a specialist in cleaning up the blood and debris left after the police have gone and the body has been removed. He's good at his job thanks to his OCD cleanliness but when he receives his next job he ignores the doubts he has in his mind and goes ahead and cleans the place up. He should have listened to those doubts as the next day he discovers he has been set up having cleaned up the murder scene which hasn't been reported to the police yet. As he fears he will become a suspect he looks into what is going on to discover police corruption and a major cover up.
As I said the opening to "Cleaner" is deliciously macabre as we hear Tom explaining to a group of people what he does when he cleans up a crime scene, it has this wonderful dead pan humour going on which lifts your expectations of what is to follow. And when ever we witness Tom attending another crime scene it continues to deliver that gruesomeness as we watch him scrape blood of a table, congealed globules collecting in a pile. Unfortunately when ever "Cleaner" isn't focussing on the clean up scenes it becomes so boring and ordinary as we stumble into a very familiar formula of Tom realising he's been set up tries to discover why and by whom.
Now that wouldn't be so bad except for the fact that not only is it obvious as to who has set him up due to the distinct lack of characters but it is devoid of atmosphere. There is absolutely no suspense and even less excitement which in turn makes it a plodding procedural through the familiar story. You can tell that those behind the movie knew it was struggling because a lot of focus ends up on Tom's relationship with his daughter Rose who wants to know about her mum but finds herself stone walled by her father.
The sad things is that "Cleaner" has a good cast lead by Samuel L. Jackson but even he can't breathe life into the formulaic mess which fails to engage unless it is being gruesome. It is the same with the rest of the cast with Ed Harris, Eva Mendes and Luis GuzmĂˇn all ending up very forgettable as they are saddled with such ordinary, under written characters. In the end it is Keke Palmer who makes the biggest impression because at least as Rose she has a scene or two which requires her to act angry or upset.
What this all boils down to is that with the exception of the gruesome side of "Cleaner" the rest of the movie is dull and ordinary. It ends up feeling like a huge waste of a clever set up as well as a huge waste of talent.