Betrayal and Corruption Themes in the Film 'The Cleaners'

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“Death is a messy business” Wells N. Mind Game Studios has created yet another film in their well received Lego stop-motion series. The creators say that the film was meant to be “homage to 1970s crime films” Wells N. . The film is about two hit men who are in a desperate race against time to clean up their most recent outing while searching for a piece of important evidence that could threaten to unravel their entire operation. All the while being tailed by a mysterious person who shares a similar, ominous interest in finding what they're looking for. This short essay will look at two 1970s inspired crime flicks as well as look at the technical aspects and also compare them on how each of them deal with the themes of corruption.

Written and Directed by Nathan Wells and Zach Macias, The Cleaners includes a slew of intricate and revolutionary animation techniques. One comment of the film said that there were “so many innovative techniques throughout” . The attention to detail is also impressive and there are scenes in the film that would be otherwise very basic. 

There is a scene where one of the characters puts some money in their jacket pocket and there are a few frames where they remove the figure’s hand to give it the illusion that the hand is going into his pocket when he puts the money in. They do this with the use of a flat one by one brick, in the same colour as his jacket to emulate the pocket opening. Paired with the 24 frame movement and the use of the realistic timing make this scene as well as the overall film look smooth and most importantly, natural.

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They also like to play with perspective a lot. At another point in the film they use a larger figure with a brick built hand and a larger scale remote to make it look like a detailed close up shot. The lighting, sets, voice acting and cinematography are all incredibly well done to the point where it almost transcends the art and their audience forget they are even watching a stop-motion animation. Additionally, the film has been filmed from the characters eye level which only adds to the realism. This stands out as this type of camera placement is normally missing from most other stop motions. The way the music accompanied the visuals made the film much more pleasant to watch. 

As well as this, the lighting adds an astounding amount of mood to every shot. In addition, little details in both the background and the foreground make the overall environments feel real and lived in. This film in some ways also has some interesting connections to the Soho Connection: both are 1970s inspired crime films, both have men whose most recent job goes wrong, and both have them searching for a piece of important evidence and all the while being tailed by a mysterious figure.

The Soho Connection is a short, student made film that was produced and directed by Callum Carter. The genre of the film is action and drama, and it is also influenced by black and white cinema. The general outline of the movie’s plot is “following a detective retelling of a pursuit gone wrong; in an attempt to disband a Russian prostitution ring” Carter C., as the director mentions. 

The overall themes in the film are betrayal and corruption. The use of these themes is very relevant in today’s society and the way that they are shown is through the use of storytelling and camera shots. In the story there are three main characters: the detective, the partner, and the Russian. The detective and his partner are undercover cops who work for the police and have been tasked with the capture of a drug cartel ring leader known only as the Russian, all of this slowly unfolds throughout the story. The twist in the story is that the partner is actually revealed to be working for the cartel and betrays the detective by stalking him to a place in Soho where the detective is already in mid pursuit with the Russian.

The main reason that I chose to look at The Soho Connection and The Cleaners is because I thought that both short films have very similar stories and themes, despite one being live action and the other Lego stop-motion. The use of stop-motion is a very effective way to explore extreme themes such as mafia, corruption and prostitution as the medium appeals to younger and sensitive audiences. In addition, intelligent and serene storytelling from younger directors such as Callem Carter allows to experience these extreme aspects of life from a lighter perspective. 

Mafia, corruption and prostitution are all extreme - sometimes taboo subjects, especially for premature audiences. While Lego, on the other hand, is the complete opposite: fun, colourful, and playful. Therefore, creating short films about these toxic topics, while using harmless and innocent storytelling and medium, opens the door to a younger audience to experience mature themes. This pushes and inspires people to potentially become more interested in these topics, and educated about them. And if presented in a humorous or light way, then hopefully you will be able to connect with a wider audience.  

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