‘Cleaners’ Is Fun, When It’s Not Trying Too Hard
By “The Reviewer”
We ranked it:
Through all six, half-hour (including ads) episodes of Crackle’s new original series, “Cleaners,” I had one repeating thought: There is a good, fun show here, hidden in the messy work of a director and script that often tries to do too much.
There isn’t a whole lot of originality to the series: It follows two contract killers, who, as is the case in every action movie and buddy-show on TV, are stark contrasts — one is straight-laced and responsible, the other one is wild and out-of-control. They are quite the odd couple, and they don’t like each other very much. So it’s natural that their boss puts them on an assignment together. And it’s natural that the one thing the boss said for them not to do, they did; which long-story-short leads to their boss betraying them. And so, we have a show in which two hit-women, with an annoying/genius kid in tow, have to evade a bunch of people trying to capture and kill them.
On top of all that, the show uses a lot of old tricks to come off as “cool.” Frenetic directing and editing? Yep. An important character only referred to others by a weird nickname? Oh, you bet — the main antagonist, played by Gina Gershon, is called “Mother.” Stylized, unrealistic dialogue? Oh man — at one point, one of the main characters says, “I give great head,” to some sleazy dude, and then proceeds to head-butt him.
A lot of this can be attributed to the show’s writer and director, Paul Leyden, who I imagine really wanted to do a cool action series in the style of Tarantino, Ritchie, and Fincher. Unfortunately, most of what we get feels like a copycat. You remember “Boondock Saints,” “Lucky Number Slevin,” or “Smokin’ Aces”? Yeah, like that.
So why give it a B- then? Because “Cleaners” can be very fun. When it’s not trying too hard, the show can be very enjoyable. Once you get past the first episode, the show gets more comfortable with itself, and Leyden lessens the use of the forced frenetic tics in favor of just telling the story.
And as an action movie junkie, the story is more than fine with me. It might not be original, but I don’t think the show is trying to be.
The cast, which is anchored by Emmanuelle Chriqui as the responsible killer and Emily Osment as the crazy killer, and features guest turns from Gershon, David Arquette, and Missy Pyle, can get a little campy and histrionic, but is more often than not fun to watch.
Osment is a stand-out here. Yes, she gets to play the fun, crazy character, which usually means the character is more likely to be entertaining. But Osment dives into the role and is fun to watch, whether she’s acting like a child, gleefully killing another sleazeball, doing something sweet to the kid, or really, just talking. Chriqui is good, too, though her character sometimes says things that don’t mesh with the type of role she is playing.
At the end of the day though, “Cleaners” is trying to be a fun, action-packed six-episode ride about a bunch of criminals in LA. It succeeds at this, when it’s not trying to.