Freelance Review | A Movie Just Like Every Other

by Andrew Parker

It’s not that the action comedy Freelance is an offensively bad movie, but rather that it’s just another movie. Pretty much a copy of a copy of a copy with microscopic tweaks made along the way, viewers can be forgiven for thinking they’ve seen Freelance before because it’s so wildly indistinguishable from any other similarly minded films. A bundle of old chestnuts and cliches, Freelance is competently delivered – for the most part – but also creatively bereft and lazy; the kind of film where you could pop out to go do something else without pausing, come back, and there’s no chance you wouldn’t be able to immediately figure out what was going on when you rejoined the action already in progress.

John Cena stars as Mason Pettits, a lawyer who once gave up his lucrative profession to become a member of the U.S. Army Special Forces, because he was afraid he would enter into a stale, complacent life he would regret if he didn’t make a change. But during a tragic mission to assassinate a dictator, Mason suffers a career ending back injury and ends up becoming the thing he tried so hard to avoid: a lawyer, living in the suburbs, with a wife (Alice Eve) and daughter who love him. But opportunity knocks once again when a fellow army buddy (Christian Slater) asks Mason to take a job for his “private security” firm, protecting an arrogant, award winning journalist (Alison Brie) who fell from grace after fabricating sources. She’s heading to interview the very dictator (Juan Pablo Raba) that Mason blames for ending his career. Wouldn’t you know it, only moments after they get their, the dictator’s nephew mounts a coup, and now they all have to band together if they want to survive.

Freelance director Pierre Morel is probably best known for rejuvenating Liam Neeson’s career (for better or worse) with the original Taken film, but he’s also responsible for generic, forgettable, but reasonably competent action thrillers like From Paris with Love and Peppermint. He’s a solid hand for this type of thing, meaning simply delivering something that looks like a movie. The script from veteran television comedy writer Jacob Lentz is pulled almost verbatim from a decades old textbook on how to write an adventure where people who don’t get along have to make their way through the jungle to safety. That means Morel’s job is basically done for him, and the effort required to make Freelance seem credible is minimal. The action is uninspired. The one liners are hackneyed. The twists are completely unsurprising. If you’ve ever seen a movie in the same vein, you’ll be pining to watch a better version than Freelance.

Curiously, amid all the “friends becoming enemies” and “enemies becoming friends,” the one cliche Freelance avoids is starting up too much of a romance between Cena and Brie’s characters. Mason ends up realizing he loves his wife, even though he doesn’t love his life, which is a nifty wrinkle in search of a better movie, and is dealt with in a single scene before never being discussed again. For the most part, this is nothing more than watching people trying to stay one step ahead of faceless hordes of mercenaries that want them dead. Bicker. Shootout. Run. Escape. Bicker. Learning experience. Shootout. Repeat.

It helps to have pros like Cena and Brie anchoring the story, even if the latter is given nothing to work with in a stock role as an uppity hotshot that thinks she’s the greatest reporter on the planet. She still provides a good comedic foil for Cena, who carries with him a unique, square-jawed charisma that’s capable of being silly and self-effacing whenever he’s not being called upon to blow something or someone up up and away. They keep Freelance watchable, even if that experience is a completely passive one that kills off brain cells in the process. And for their part, Raba does a solid job as the dictator who’s secretly smarter and more benevolent than his flighty personality initially suggests.

Freelance is a movie that seems like it was constructed with old school aims in mind. Not to update a classic formula, but to play forever on basic cable on a Saturday afternoon. Freelance is a film so familiar and low aiming that in about two years time, I could imagine it constantly playing on some station somewhere in the world at any given moment. It’s not the worst thing in the world, but certainly not anything to aspire to if you’re making a movie.

Freelance opens in theatres everywhere on Friday, October 27, 2023.

Join our list

Subscribe to our mailing list and get weekly updates on our latest contests, interviews, and reviews.

Thank you for subscribing.

Something went wrong.

You may also like

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. Accept Read More