Clean tells a gripping, slow-burn tale punctuated by brutal bursts of violence through the gritty filter of noir. Clean (played by Oscar Winner Adrien Brody) is just a simple garbage man, but he is stained. “No matter how hard I try, I can’t wash away the past,” Clean opines during the opening scene. The devastating loss of his daughter in a tragic accident has changed his life forever, and he has put his history working as a hitman for the mob in the rearview.
Of course, no movie would exist without throwing in a little external conflict to pair with Clean’s internal conflict. Clean becomes very friendly with a local girl reminiscent of his deceased daughter. He does everything he can to try to protect Dianda (Chandler DuPont) and her mother from harm. Like many kids are bound to do, Dianda falls in with the wrong crowd, and Clean must come to her rescue in the only way he knows how: wielding a massive wrench.
It seems that Adrien Brody did all but direct this crime drama—he plays the lead, wrote the screenplay, produced and even helped with the score. Having such a deep relationship with the material works to his benefit, as Brody delivers one of my favorite performances of his career. Throw in RZA as a pawn shop owner, messy and effective realistic-looking blood splatter, a drug-smuggling kingpin who runs his operation via fish guts (Glenn Fleshler as Michael), White Boy Rick breakout Richie Merritt as Michael’s son in a key role, and bone-crunching, visceral action, and you have one great movie.
Clean screened at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival on June 19th.