Cleaner is a 2007 movie with an extremely good premise. Samuel L. Jackson plays Tom Cutler, a former cop who lives with his teenage daughter; his wife is dead and there is a hint of mystery about what happened to her. He now runs a business cleaning up death scenes with forensic precision. The opening of the film, where he describes his work in ghoulish terms to a group of people, is witty and gripping, if markedly different in tone from the rest of the film.
Things begin to go wrong when he is tasked to clean up the scene of a very messy shooting in a posh house. After the job is done, he starts to become suspicious and re-visits the scene the next day – to find a children’s party in progress, supervised by a glamorous blonde (played by Eva Mendes) who appears ignorant of the tragedy that has taken place in her own home. But it turns out that her husband is missing…
Tom starts to worry – with good cause – that he has been set up. We learn that he has secrets of his own from his days in the police, and it soon becomes evident that there has been widespread corruption. He isn’t sure whom he can trust, apart from his old mate, played by Ed Harris, and it is far from clear whether the victim’s wife is as innocent as she claims to be.
I enjoyed the film, although overall I wasn’t sure it lived up to its early promise. There wasn’t quite enough meat in the story, and perhaps too few interesting characters to render the plot twists unpredictable. But it’s well acted, and worth watching.