A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
One main theme is the idea that violence begets violence (in a big way). Another is about atoning for past sins, and while the movie demonstrates many good deeds, it also depicts great suffering with little relief. In the end, there's a very high body count with no real consequence beyond continued suffering.
Positive Role Models
Clean goes out of his way to help others and to do worthy deeds, but he never lets up on his own suffering or cuts himself a break. He's violent to the core and responds mostly with violence.
The main character is a White male; virtually every other non-villain character is Black (the villains are White). Many of the Black characters are depicted as poor and/or dealing with addiction, but they're also portrayed as sympathetic people with clear wants, needs, and ideas. The "N" word is heard many times, both in dialogue and in music. Villains refer to Chinese people as "Chinks."
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Violence & Scariness
Extreme violence. Guns, including a heavily modified super-gun, are bought and used, and many characters are shot and killed. Gory exploding heads, blood spurts/spatters, and bloody wounds. Many characters are beaten with a heavy wrench (blood on wrench). Characters killed with axe. A character beaten several times with a hammer (one on screen, the rest off). Person shot in face with flare gun; face glows red hot. Knife to throat. Throat-slicing; character stabbed in throat with screwdriver. Attack with small axes. Person hit with pool ball. Fighting, punching, etc. Main character whacked on back of head. Homemade bomb. Explosions. Truck crashes through living room wall. Child dies due to drug injection.
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Extremely strong, constant language, including "f--k," "motherf----r," "s--t," the "N" word, "damn," "chinks," "goddamn," "hell."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Villains are drug dealers. Main character attends meetings related to a past dependency. Little balloons of heroin are shown. Images of preparing drugs for sale. Meth and crack are mentioned. Close-up of a hypodermic needle with blood inside. Corpse of a child shown, her hand holding a needle. Child appears to be drunk/high. Party sequence with beer-drinking, pot-smoking. More pot-smoking. Cigarette smoking. Villains pouring and toasting with vodka. TV news report about fentanyl.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Clean is a violent drama about a solitary man (Adrien Brody) who tries to save a young girl and her grandmother from drug dealers. It's clearly near and dear to Brody's heart -- he co-wrote, co-produced, and provided the beat-heavy music -- but the story is disappointingly familiar. Violence is extremely strong, with many killings, beatings with bloody wrenches/hammers/axes, a throat-stabbing with a screwdriver, a face being shot with a flare gun, many huge blood sprays and spatters (as well as exploding heads), fighting, a homemade bomb, etc. Language is also constant, with countless uses of "f--k," "motherf----r," "s--t," the "N" word, and more. The villains are drug dealers; the preparing of drugs for sale is shown. A child dies from using drugs; her corpse is shown holding a needle. Another child appears drunk or stoned at a party. Characters also drink socially and smoke pot and cigarettes. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
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.
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Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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