This was…a film. A B-level indie film that was highly meaningless, followed a familiar formula and featured a predictable outcome for another action-comedy film we can stack on the bookshelves or keep hidden in the basement and not recall years from now. And we in the film business don’t necessarily want to bash films, especially when they have top Hollywood stars like the always fun and lovable John Cena (best known for the Peacemaker series, Blockers, Bumblebee) and the wonderfully talented Alison Brie (Community, GLOW). However, Freelance is an abysmal work all around, and it’s cumbersome to justify much of it as an action-comedy, let alone a film to even go out of one’s way and watch.
No, it’s not the worst film out there, but it barely has a semblance of plot and structuring. Why it didn’t head to VOD instead of the multiplex will leave this writer scratching their head for some time.
The plot follows a disgruntled lawyer, ex-military bodyguard Mason Petits (Cena), struggling to deal with his work after settling down from his military days and how it impacts his family life. He gets a reunion with his former boss (Christian Slater), who calls him to go on a mission to protect a disgraced journalist named Claire Wellington (Brie) and, in exchange, will receive a nice payday for his efforts. Petits and Wellington meet with a dictator, Juan Venegas (Juan Pablo Raba), so Ms. Wellington can interview him to kickstart her career again. However, a coup undermines Venegas, and mercenaries are hunting down the trio to prevent Venegas from protecting his country of Paldonia and its oil reserves.
While a seemingly straightforward narrative, the film becomes a bust for doing nothing substantial and not doing much in action or comedy. Jacob Lentz’s screenplay is unabashedly conceived in such a deficient manner that you’d be hard-pressed not to believe they were coming up with these lines of dialogue or scenes on the spot. Any moment of levity becomes brushed off, and the dire moments get undercut, so we’re left with a relatively stagnant feature that doesn’t gain much momentum. Even the attempts at romance objectify Brie’s character, and the other moment between her and Cena’s character comes out of the blue without much consideration (and then is dropped like bags of sand).
Perhaps the most insulting thing is how the movie takes its two big stars and turns them into bland avatars that would’ve been better served as background extras. Cena, a star well-known for his improvisation and goofiness, is neutered beyond belief regarding his character. Much like with the Hidden Strike feature from earlier this year, the post-credits prove in both scenarios that Cena and his dance partner were toned down regarding the humor (and some of the action). Genuinely, the only person who seems to be having fun is Raba. He keeps his character gliding by trying to laugh and pose for the camera, even considering how forcefully the dialogue was lazily drafted up for all parties.
Director Pierre Morel (District 13, Taken) seems to have given up on this feature, and perhaps we should, too. $40 million down the drain, and it’s almost as if they’re begging for audiences to feel sorry for them.
Freelance will gather dust like those selections in the direct-to-DVD bins and is a deplorable example of how not to utilize stars like John Cena and Alison Brie.