Review by Rich Cline | 2.5/5

dir Paul Solet
scr Paul Solet, Adrien Brody
prd Daniel Sollinger, Adrien Brody, Paul Solet, Elliot Brody
with Adrien Brody, Glenn Fleshler, Richie Merritt, Chandler Ari DuPont, Mykelti Williamson, RZA, Michelle Wilson, John Bianco, Gerard Cordero, Alex Corrado, Jade Yorker, David Fierro
release US 28.Jan.22,
UK 8.Jul.22
21/US 1h34

sw williamson rza

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Set in wintry Upstate New York, this gritty drama feels very familiar, even if it's finely made. Sharply directed by Paul Solet and written with earthy emotionality by Solet and Adrien Brody, there's nothing on-screen that catches us by surprise. The plot simply follows the same trajectory as every other redemption-revenge movie, which may be fine for casual viewers. But anyone wanting something pointed or meaningful will be disappointed.
In search of redemption, Clean (Brody) works as a trash collector, attending rehab meetings and living in a junkyard with a big dog. But he's finding it hard to wash away his vicious past, even as his helpful actions make him a beloved member of his community. Meanwhile, ruthless gang boss Michael (Fleshler) worries that his hotshot excon son Mikey (Merritt) isn't taking the family business seriously. And when Clean rescues local teen Dianda (DuPont) from a drug house, he finds himself in Michael's crosshairs and has to revert to his former violent ways.
Along with the gravelly narration, Brody also composed the moody music. This nicely echoes Clean's struggle to deal with his guilt over his young daughter's death. So the way he tries to father Dianda and befriend her mother (Wilson) has warmth even as it hints at darker things to come. But the flashbacks are relentlessly manipulative. And scenes of Michael dishing out savage thuggery feel deeply cliched, as does the presence of a corrupt cop.

Brody brings a terrific hangdog quality to Clean, a guy haunted by both grief and the awful things he has done. Although this soft-spoken exterior conceals an unspeakable talent for bloodletting. Aside from the always superb Fleshler's swaggering Michael, other characters remain relatively silent, as dialog is fairly minimal. But even if the script doesn't do them any favours, leaving them as little more than types, the actors ably express their roles through their physicality, and each manages to create a memorable figure.

While this film is visually accomplished, with some impressive sequences and an exceptionally strong cast, the premise is as weakly developed as any of the Taken thrillers, relying on the audience's previous moviegoing experience rather than any sense of narrative logic or depth. The only thing that's unusual here is that most of the on-screen deaths involve a grisly deployment of household tools rather than guns. Well, at least until the expected final face-off. And as it builds to this climax, the excessive brutality is staggering but hardly original.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 8.Jul.22

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© 2022 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall