“Clean” is directed by Paul Solet and promulgates the myriad creative facets of Adrien Broody. The actor from The Pianist has done a fine job in most departments, but he misses the mark when it comes to one of the most important aspects of filmmaking, i.e., substantiating the conflict of the screenplay with a depth and layering that it could have greatly benefited from. Now the catch is, if you view the writing on paper, I am sure it would still seem to be quite poignant. But the final screenplay that comes out after editing just does not do justice to the brilliantly written introductory paragraph, narrated by the garbage man named Clean, played by Broody himself.
The story revolves around a man who repents of his past but cannot seem to shake it no matter how hard he tries. He lives a secluded life and works as a garbage man. He is burdened with guilt and has a tryst with repentance quite often. There is a constant search for answers, but it’s been so long that the questions are long forgotten. Clean is of the opinion that a clogged drain can still be cleared, but a clogged mind cannot be sluiced so easily.
Clean had always believed that nothing gave you a better high as compared to violence. He keeps revisiting old wounds. It had almost become a habit devoid of any logic. Had any prudence prevailed, then life would not have been so empty. But a clogged mind is often unable to see the possibilities and, moreover, kills the ones present too. The garbage man is often told that some things cannot be cleaned up and that letting them go is the only solution to it. But Clean can’t. He tries every day, does the needful, but is still haunted by a past.
Dianda, a girl from the neighborhood, is Clean’s chance to atone for his sins. He considered himself a failed father and saw his daughter in Dianda. A group of guys try to molest Dianda, and Clean intervenes in full force, as looking out for the girl was something that came very naturally to him. One of the guys that he brutally injured was the son of a local drug lord.
In a stereotypical fashion, Michael, the kingpin of the drug cartel, goes all out to ruin Dianda’s and Clean’s lives. Clean knows that in such situations, counterattack is the best form of defense. In a John Wick-ish manner, he calls Michael and informs him of the impending doom. Michael’s gang comes to know that the garbage man was something else in his past life. He was no less than a Grim Reaper.
The relationship between Clean and his daughter is shown in fragments, through flashbacks, that fail miserably to impact us in any manner. The motivations of the protagonist are cloaked in a veil of vagueness where we are not made privy to the specifics of the emotions felt. Adrien Broody displays that familiar guilt with a veracity that cannot be questioned, but the point of origination is kept so ambiguous that the audience never feels invested in the story.
Does ‘Clean’ Try To Impersonate John Wick?
A lot of filmmakers end up getting inspired by various movies, and nothing is wrong with that. The problem arises when you are unable to add on to the layers that make it authentically yours. Similar to the belief, “Clean” fails to explore the depths of complex emotions that it tries to depict.
So, on the surface, we come to know that there is a man who has suffered in the past, considers himself to be a bad father, and makes it his mission to save a girl from bad men, single-handedly. We breeze through all these aspects without stressing on any one of them, or exploring the intricacies of their emotions in an elaborate manner.
What could have been an interesting plot point to explore was Mikey’s relationship with his father and the psychological impact it had on him. We get snippets of it throughout film but it is never explored in depth . There was a son who was done dealing with his father and was exasperated to such an extent that he took the appalling step of killing him with his own hands.
‘Clean,’ could have been a moving tale of repentance and dealing with one’s own past, but instead just limits itself to being an ineffective journey through a flaccid execution and a facile narrative.