Movie Review: Clean

Clean (Movie, 2021) - MovieMeter.com

credit: Clean

It doesn’t feel like the audience gets to see a lot of Adrien Brody these days, but he’s still around, and he’s still doing his thing. In Clean, he gets to play a tortured individual with a dark past that is on the road to redemption but is destined to get sucked back into the type of life that he tried to leave behind. Living his days as a garbage man that salvages and sells what he can, Clean is the kind of guy that looks out for others since he looks out for a young woman in the neighborhood, despite being told more than once that he’s not her father. The fact that the neighborhood that they live in is nearly empty save for thugs and gangsters and a handful of decent folks that somehow eke out a living is kind of depressing, but it’s also a great place for an ex-criminal to lay low and stay under the radar, especially since he’s doing his best just to maintain his sanity. Unfortunately, that’s not always an option, especially when there’s still a strong gang presence running the streets. 

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credit: Clean

Adrien Brody is great at portraying tortured characters. 

Everyone has their specialty, and Brody is one of those that can play the part of a tortured character quite well since his facial features tend to be quite expressive, and his acting is easily adapted to such a role. As Clean, it’s pretty easy to understand that he’s a guy that’s on edge most days but is hiding that anxiety and pain behind a calm mask that looks tortured but is, at the very least, rational and reasonable. While making his living as a garbage man, he stays out of the way of others and doesn’t make waves considering that he does his job when most people are off the street and aren’t likely to be on the street. As it’s seen, though, a wrinkle does exist in this movie since when it’s shown that a crime boss’s son is released from prison, the son takes off with a group of black men his age instead of reuniting with his father. That might not appear to have anything to do with Clean, but of course, that explanation comes later. 

It’s easy for people to think that such neighborhoods don’t exist. 

Rundown neighborhoods that are still standing but remain largely empty are prevalent within certain cities in the US, but if a person never sees them, it’s very easy to think that Hollywood might be taking a lot of liberties. But the truth is that neighborhoods such as this do exist, at least until someone comes along and tries to fix them up. The depressing nature of such a neighborhood is kind of offset by the fact that it’s still someone’s home, and they likely feel some way about it. As far as working for this movie, it gives the feature a feeling that those who reside in the neighborhood just want to be left alone and aren’t typically looking for trouble unless they’re the ones causing it. 

Clean movie review & film summary (2022) | Roger Ebert

credit: Clean

Clean’s past is something he’s trying to keep at bay, not outrun. 

It becomes kind of obvious that Clean is a man with a very traumatic past, especially as he’s seen in flashbacks with a young girl that could only be his daughter. The fact appears to be that he was into drugs and the thug life back in his day and that, at some point, it caught up to him as the death of his daughter was perhaps the final straw. In any case, Clean is seen attending meetings to deal with his guilt, and he does his best to clean up graffiti around the neighborhood while helping out with the young woman and her grandmother. When Michael, the neighborhood gangster, kills an individual, dumps their body in the dumpster, and tries to pay Clean off, things start to happen as Michael looks into who Clean really is. It turns out that Clean was, at one time, someone known as a Reaper, an extremely dangerous killer whose title carries enough gravity to let the audience know that Clean isn’t anyone to be messed with. 

Sometimes the quiet folks really are the most dangerous. 

Not only does this guy modify his own weaponry and take out a substantial number of thugs before driving a garbage truck through Michael’s home, but he singlehandedly takes out Michael’s gang before Michael’s son kills his father, thereby ending the conflict. Despite being wounded, it’s uncertain whether Clean survived or not, but by the end of the movie, it’s understood by the look on the young woman’s face that Clean did survive and that things have turned around. It’s not for certain, but it’s a nice thought all the same since this story could use a moderate to happy ending. 

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