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Suffering from being entirely to heavy-handed, CLEANSKIN is still a solid little thriller that never quite reaches the levels of its ambition. 

Ewan (Sean Bean) is a secret service agent recently back from the Afghanistan War and still haunted by how it has affected his life. Tasked with tracking down a case of semtex explosives stolen by a terrorism group, he soon discovers that they are being used for suicide bombings around the London area. 

What makes CLEANSKIN different from most run of the mill action thrillers is that a good portion of the movie is spent with Ash (Abhin Galeya), one of the main orchestrators of the bombings. We learn in flashbacks how he got seduced away from a promising law degree by Muslim activist Nabil (Peter Polycarpou) and turned into a killer. 

We also discover how driven Ewan is and the lengths he will go to take down the ones he feels are responsible. Through this we start to see that they are different sides of the same coin. 

My big issue with the film is that in more capable hands it could have been quite compelling, but writer/director Hadi Hajaig is not a deft enough filmmaker to really make the material sing. There are plot holes and sloppy storytelling that hamper the drama coupled with some poor editing and visual choices. 

It’s not all bad and Sean Bean is certainly up for the task, giving another great performance. Charlotte Rampling also co-stars as his handler with an agenda of her own and there are small roles for James Fox and Michelle Ryan (in what amounts to a cameo). 

CLEANSKIN could have been like a taut Robert Ludlum political thriller, which is what it, aspires to be, but it falls far short of that assignment. It’s still worth a look and better than most of its ilk.

AUGUST 9, 2014