Review

Code Name: The Cleaner Review

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Jan 05, 2007 | 5:03am EST

Don’tcha just hate waking up in the morning with amnesia next to a dead guy in a hotel room? Such is the unenviable scenario facing Jake (Cedric the Entertainer) a seemingly normal guy who can’t retrace his steps leading up to this predicament thanks in part to the sizable gash on his head. But he still knows that when you see a briefcase full of cash you take it. At which point Diane (Nicolette Sheridan) a beautiful leggy bosomy blonde promptly arrives on the scene and whisks Jake back to a mansion she claims is his. Only after she attempts to drug Jake with truth serum does he realize she’s not on his side. He bails and winds up at a diner where coincidentally his real girlfriend/ally Gina (Lucy Liu) is an employee. She fills in some blanks informing Jake that he’s merely a maintenance worker for a local video-game manufacturer. Jake on the other hand maintains that he is in fact an undercover CIA agent--code name: “The Cleaner”--and intends to prove it. Cedric carries his hefty physique in such a way that would preclude him from being a serious actor even if he wanted to be--which is usually advantageous because he’s a great comedian with flawless timing and ability to play off his paunchiness. But the hunt for a role suited to his projected dimwitted hip-hop style continues since his latest comes up well short. When Cedric’s comedy hits in Code Name it kills but those cases are literally limited to maybe one scene you haven’t seen in the trailer. His cohort Liu can usually lighten up any movie but--you’re right in asking--“What the hell is she doing in this movie?” Indeed she is way too big a star to be in a quality of movie usually reserved for those actors trying to jumpstart or restore a career--but she gets the job done albeit at the cost of Hollywood cred. Desperate Housewives star Sheridan bares more than enough skin to make up for her equally bad role choice. This might’ve made sense pre-Housewives but now she more or less falls into the same category as Liu. Either way it’s hard to complain after seeing her in a few too-hot-for-Housewives scenes! All you really need to write a movie these days is a main character with amnesia--unless Cedric the Entertainer is that character. Code Name's co-writers Robert Adetuyi (next week's Stomp the Yard) and George Gallo (1994's underrated Trapped in Paradise) learned that the hard way. They and director Les Mayfield (The Man Blue Streak) could have gone in countless other directions to cater to the star but chose instead to make the story quasi-serious. Huge mistake. The director best known for his astonishing amount of bad movies (or maybe it’s his astonishing amount of second chances) would have done much better to with a straight face feature Cedric as a Jason Bourne-esque character in earnest--effectively rendering Code Name a spoof. The problem in not doing so is that Mayfield elicits a spoof’s silliness all throughout the movie while expecting us to give a damn about the convoluted story. And while that's the movie's fatal and most apparent flaw from the first scene on it's only the tip of the iceberg problem-wise.

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