Brody delivers a touching, deeply committed performance in a grim, wintry, urban movie that's strong on atmosphere but has a story that, disappointingly, is stuck in an all-too-familiar rut. Brody, who also co-produced and co-wrote Clean, as well as providing the throbbing beats and background music, goes deep for this one, finding wells of suffering and compassion that are hard not to get behind. Even though his character is a loner, Brody is a team player, showing an impressive generosity while sharing the screen with his fellow performers; he lets them all shine, too, especially young DuPont, but also Mykelti Williamson and RZA in small roles as Clean's sponsor and a pawn shop proprietor.
Yet it's all used up on a copy of a copy of so many modern crime dramas/action movies, with a typical, sadistic villain -- who chooses to leave his son disfigured to teach him a lesson -- and a main character with hidden, superhuman fighting abilities. Part of the problem is that when Clean jumps into the fray, he does it with such grim lifelessness, as if it's all just unavoidable or inevitable. It's all doom and gloom and has no thrill to it, no B-movie energy. Even the violence is just gruesomely over-the-top; worse, it cheapens the movie's attempts to build themes of dehumanization in a garbage-ridden city. It's a shame to consider that Clean was clearly something dear to Brody's heart, and it's sad to see it almost work, then teeter right into the trash bin.