Tom Cutler, a retired police officer now runs a company which specialises in crime scene clean up. He is assigned a clean up job post a homicide. After doing the job he discovers that he has been conned into cleaning up a crime scene and must try to unravel the mystery behind what happened in that house.Written by
DIRECTOR TRADEMARK (Renny Harlin): (Finland): Finnish coat of arms and flag is seen on the mirror behind Tom (Samuel L. Jackson) when he's having conversation with Eddie (Ed Harris) in the hotel room. See more »
When Tom and Ann are sitting in the Church, the back of another person sitting next to them on the pew suddenly materializes. See more »
Surprisingly sluggish and dull for what should have been a thriller
Tom Cutler is a crime scene cleaner his company is contracted to remove the blood and gore left behind when the authorities have removed the bodies. A former cop, Tom is also a widower with a teenage daughter to look after. Tom gets a job like any other and cleans the mess from a bloody murder in a rich neighbourhood so that nothing remains for the family to see. He goes back the next day to find the family home but that they have no knowledge of his work or indeed that anything untoward happened. Trying to contact the cop who gave Tom the job turns out to be a dead end and a fake name, meaning that Tom has effectively deleted all evidence of a murder before anyone else knew about it. When the police launch a "missing persons" enquiry into a high-profile man in a police corruption case, Tom quickly finds himself up to his neck in trouble.
The cast attracted me to this and I wondered why, with all these people involved, I hadn't heard of it. Watching it helped me understand why it never came to my attention because it doesn't ever get going before it hurts itself. The concept is good enough as we have a former police officer now cleaning crime scenes used to delete the record of murder. On paper what happens also works well as skeletons come out of the closet and the stakes get higher as Tom nears the truth, however when it comes to delivery on screen, it all falls apart. The opening of the film is brisk enough but when it gets to the point where it has to start doing something (ie specifically when the crime is discovered) the film seems to slip into neutral gear and just coast on as before. As a result we get lots of stuff that don't work and should have been minimised or removed and also lots of stuff that is too average to impress.
What I am talking about is the lack of pace and tension in the film; I know that Tom is an older character and that a good thriller doesn't need shouting or running to engage but this film definitely needs some energy injected into it. It drags its way through the plot to the obvious conclusion (and, detail aside, it is pretty obvious) and it never really made me sit up and take notice. A lot of the problem is with the writing because on one hand we clearly have a film that is put together as a thriller but then on the other hand the writer seems keen to drive the film from the characters. Thus we have scenes of domestic troubles, moments with characters revealing things about themselves and, to be blunt, too much talking. It wouldn't matter if the film did this in a way that engaged me but at the same time it is attracting you with the thriller plot so that all this other stuff feels like a waste of time they could have worked together but here they don't.
The cast can do nothing with it either, although none of them really help themselves. Considering what better films all those involved have done, it is disappointing to see them struggle or fail in different ways. Jackson appears to have been mis-directed because he is looking for something from within his character instead of just flicking into "thriller mode". Neither the material nor the film rewards this approach and his performance ends up feeling like another distraction. He does work well with Palmer though (who herself is very good) but again this whole side of the film feels like a distraction. Harris is obvious and a bit lazy, while Guzmán plays it the way you expect. Mendes is the biggest let-down for me. I know many don't rate her but I think she is good at what she does but, here, she just struggles with her dialogue and character and is about as poor as I think I've seen her.
Overall then what we have here is a flat film that never really sparks into life in any regard. The thriller core lacks energy and the associated threads of family etc are not allowed to grow and end up just being distractions. You can see the potential but without decided what it wants to be, general uncertainty has prevented anyone working too hard and has produced a surprisingly sluggish and dull affair.
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