The swashbuckling comedic action-adventure sub-genre featuring a macho man saving a high-profile damsel in distress seems like a dated idea. It’s possible for filmmakers and storytellers to modernize this premise (The Lost City as a recent example), but to leave this two-dimensional dynamic at its infant stages for most of the movie feels like a no-win risk. If this is generally agreed upon, then pardon me for the switcheroo: I had a lot of fun with Freelance, a cartoony movie featuring hunky John Cena protecting a short-tempered Alison Brie from indistinguishable flunkies with big guns.
Cena plays ex-special forces operative Mason who, after a career-ending back injury, has saddled up as a suburban family man who fails to find the same passion as a lawyer. A former military buddy (Christian Slater) who is trying to get the security branch of his new company off the ground recruits Mason for “one last job”. Since the price is right (and whether he knows it or not, is itching to return to the field), Mason takes on the freelance gig to provide private security for besmirched journalist Claire Wellington (Brie) as she embarks on an exclusive interview with South American president Juan Venegas (Juan Pablo Raba of Netflix’s Narcos). Venegas is unaware of how he was Mason’s target during his last mission, but Mason seethes with every move. The trip is railroaded after a failed assassination leads to a coup towards Venegas, prompting Mason to tap into retaliation mode for his team’s safety.
Directed by Pierre Morel (Taken, From Paris with Love, Peppermint), Freelance is as straightforward as action-adventures come, adding to the primitive nature of this flick. But, this popcorn entertainment delivers if audiences are looking for “blood squib city” as Mason shoots up a bunch of bad guys. This also includes (but is not limited to): car crashes where actors are quickly switched out for obvious dummies, explosive helicopters with hurling propellors, and close-up knife fights as people are swung into walls and thrown down flights of stairs. If the John Wick series is interested in the beauty of choreographed build-ups, Freelance just wants to cut to the chase. Admittedly, there’s less of an art to this approach, but there’s little to complain about if the movie keeps you gasping and chuckling.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie