Directed by Shahaub Roudbari, written and produced by Marissa Labog, who also star as the film’s lead actors. An 80’s driven action comedy that revolves around a spirited maid and an overzealous secret agent. As her love for Whitney Houston disrupts his covert op, a frantic battle erupts revealing things are not always as they seem. Also starring: Aviel “A.V.” Ayoung, Stephane Fiossonangaye, Ryan Gray, Anthony Oh, Dustin Stern-Garcia, Amy Sturdivant and Yavuz Topuz.
There are few people who can hear I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me) by Whitney Houston and not want to sing along, it’s a classic 80’s hit that will probably never get old, so opening a film with your lead singer lip syncing to it, was always going to go well. At this point, we all love a good lip sync video because when it’s done well, it’s incredibly entertaining and here it’s certainly done well, Labog does a fantastic job of convincing us she is fully into the song and quite possibly she was while filming, it’s infectious. It’s a perfect opening to the film, it’s visually great blending modern quality with an 80’s feel and having Labog look like she’s having a great time, then people start beating each other up in the background and she fails to notice, or give a crap. Not to mention that the whole thing sits nicely in a ratio to reflect the idea of a music video, which was a lovely extra touch.
As soon as the fight commences, what’s immediately noticeable is the quality of the stunt work and that shouldn’t be a surprise given that the film is made by stunt performers. Labog and Roudbari have worked on Logan, Aquaman, Birds of Prey and Labog even starred as one of the traffic dancers in the opening scene of La La Land, while Roudbari worked on James Gunn’s upcoming The Suicide Squad. The work of Chad Stahelski and David Leitch has shown audiences the importance embracing the artistry of stunts, elevating action sequences in mainstream media closer to those in films such as Park Chan-wook’s Oldboy and Gareth Edwards‘ The Raid, Cleaning House proves that again; the filmmakers expertise makes their actions sequences flawless, engaging and a hell of a lot of fun. There’s a huge focus on the energy and pace which comes through strongly and makes it extremely compelling to watch, it moves so fast but the direction keeps you in a place where you don’t miss anything. Too often action directors make heavy cuts or excessively quick movements and while you know what’s happening, you miss half of it, here they treat the scene as it should be, they give the direction a great amount of movement, while never taking the audience away from the action at hand.
That by itself makes for a good short film but that’s not all it has to offer, Labog’s writing is clever and effortlessly funny, it takes a decent writer working with a solid cast to be able to get the comedy across while using minimal dialogue and they really succeed in that here. It touches upon on feminism, racism while keeping it light so that comedy tone continues going strong and there’s even a nod to Henry Cavill’s now iconic fist reloading from Mission Impossible: Fallout which is cleverly relevant and well timed within the scene and it even has a few unexpected turns in store. It follows the direction in keeping the focus where it needs to be, there’s no extraneous dialogue, the comedy comes through naturally and entirely shares the stage with the action. One of the other great elements of the film is its sound mixing, when moving back and forth from Sydney’s headphones to the action going on around her, it perfectly changes to reflect the listening experience and while this may sound fairly inconsequential to some, it’s that sort of attention to detail that makes a higher quality film.
Cleaning House gives you 9-minutes of non-stop action but it’s also funny, clever and a joy to watch. You couldn’t possibly watch this and miss the sheer quality that’s being thrown at you through the filmmakers’ stunt expertise, they take that knowledge and make it count to create flawless sequences and a thrilling experience. It ticks every box visuals, sound, acting, direction, writing and more, it’s genuinely hard to think of anything that doesn’t work, it’s a well oiled machine. On top of all that, it creates such a great chemistry between its leads in such a short amount of time, to the point that it’s something you’d love to see expanded into its own series. So many studios have failed where this film has succeeded, it combines action and comedy in an utterly natural and brilliantly entertaining way, which is more than worth 9-minutes of your time.