Starring: John Cena, Alison Brie, Juan Pablo Raba, Christian Slater, Marton Csokas and Alice Eve
Distributor: Roadshow Films
Runtime: 108 mins. Reviewed in Nov 2023
Reviewer: Fr Peter Malone msc
An ex-special forces operative takes a job to provide security for a journalist as she interviews a dictator, but a military coup breaks out and they are forced to escape into the jungle.
Once upon a Cinema time, the used to be Saturday matinees especially for children’s audiences. Lots of adventures, heroes, damsels in distress, serials and cliffhangers at the end of every episode . . .
Those days are long gone but there has been a long tradition since then of action adventures, often impossible situations, strong heroes (and, for some time now, always with guns), no longer damsels in distress – maybe the distress but strong-minded leading ladies who share in the action.
Freelance is one of these films. The action heroes we have become used to – Sylvester, Arnie – are now in their late 70s (but still seeing themselves as Expendables). Here we have John Cena, in his 40s – a big, square-jawed, champion wrestler and still commentator on WWE on film and television. He is more in the tradition of Dwayne Johnson, but certainly not as charismatic.
Actually, there is quite a lot of comedy in Freelance. It may remind action movie buffs of Romancing the Stone, or more recently, The Lost City, traipsing through jungles, enemies in pursuit, and some deadpan dialogue. And, speaking of Expendables, some of the action may be considered in that vein.
And, speaking of vain, Cena is Mason Pettits, who is persuaded to take up protecting an ambitious journalist, is not vain. But President Venegas of the fictional Paldonia (think any Latin American country), definitely is. He is played by Raba who is clearly enjoying himself right throughout the film, and this is quite infectious. For most of the time Venegas is dapper in an immaculately clean white suit, always buttoned, no matter what the crisis, no matter the weapons, no matter the danger.
Claire Wellington (Brie) is a top award-winning journalist who is shamed when exposed as not researching her sources sufficiently. She is invited by the president to interview him checking with a security company (the head played by Mason’s former colleague, Sebastian (Slater, who is eight years older than John Cena)). And, filming the coup, the fighting, she has the perfect television program for more awards.
So, it is that kind of film. It does have a contemporary justice moral, the reforms begun by the formally exploitative president, the influence and lobby of South African mercenaries (led by New Zealand actor Csokas who is seen enjoying his little girl ballet dancing to Swan Lake and then becoming a snarling, menacing villain) and international companies wanting to exploit mineral resources for future technology, the battle for the poor and integrity.
Not high cinema, and never intending to be, but under the direction of the Morel (Taken, To Paris with Love, The Gunmen) it has been made for an enjoyable time off.
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