Movie Review: Clean Hands (2015)
Clean Hands (2015)
Director: Tjebbo Penning
Cast: Thekla Reuten, Jeroen van Koningsbrugge, Bente Fokken
Synopsis: The wife of a drug dealer goes on the run when she discovers he was involved in the murder of her best friend’s husband.
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It’s difficult to feel much sympathy for Sylvia (Thekla Reuten), the wife on the run from her gangster husband, in Tjebbo Penning’s pacey crime thriller, Clean Hands. After all, for a woman who’s been content to lead the pampered life of a successful drug dealer’s wife for at least fourteen years, she’s pretty quick to abandon him when his life of crime starts to catch up with him. ‘You didn’t find my work so disgusting when it was filling your wardrobe with Louis Vuitton handbags’ he reminds her after a visit from the police investigating the murder of one of his colleagues, and you have to admit, he has a point. In this day and age no-one is so naïve to believe a drug dealer goes about his daily business without running into situations that can only be resolved with violence, but this is what we’re asked to believe of the otherwise smart and resourceful Sylvia.
It’s this lack of consistency in the characters that let’s Clean Hands down. When Sylvia absconds with the emergency funds husband Eddie (Jeroen van Koningsbrugge) had salted away in the garden of their semi-detached, he turns into a vengeful pill-popping, alcoholic psychopath despite having shown no such tendencies prior to the sudden breakdown of their marriage. In fact, Eddie is one of the nicest, most personable gangsters you’re likely to meet up to that point. Taking their 13-year old daughter (Bente Fokken) and pre-teen son Yuri (Nino den Brave) with her, Sylvia leaves her husband just as his precarious financial situation takes a turn for the worse, leaving him vulnerable to reprisals from those to whom he owes money and a rival gangster looking to move in on his turf.
Clean Hands paints a fairly convincing picture of the co-existence of two very different worlds – scenes in which Eddie and his cronies go about their business are interspersed with domestic duties such as driving the kids to extra-curricular classes and having barbecues in the back garden – but it quickly devolves into a standard, but lively, woman-on-the-run thriller once Sylvia’s suspicions about her husband’s involvement in the murder grow too strong to ignore. In that respect it’s something of a throwback to the edgy, fast-paced thrillers of the ‘80s and ‘90s which seem to have fallen out of favour in this age of comic-book superheroes (although it’s still likely that some Hollywood studio might buy the rights for an English-language makeover). While Reuten struggles to make much of a character that is defined purely in terms of her relationship to her husband, van Kroningsbrugge proves convincing as both attentive father and desperate psychopath, and while Clean Hands is an enjoyable enough time-waster, it would have been a whole lot stronger had Sylvia not come across as such a treacherous hypocrite.
(Reviewed 18th August 2016)