October 27, 2023 / VVS Films
Starring: John Cena, Alison Brie, Christian Slater, Juan Pablo Raba
Directed By: Pierre Morel
An ex-special forces operative stuck in a dead-end desk job (John Cena) reluctantly takes on a gig to provide private security for a washed-up journalist (Alison Brie) as she interviews a ruthless—but impeccably dressed—dictator (Juan Pablo Raba). When a military coup breaks out just as she’s about to get the scoop of a lifetime, the unlikely trio must figure out how to survive the jungle, the assassins, and each other in order to make it out alive.
Written By Darren
Rating 2.5 out of 5
Freelance tries to rely on the star power of John Cena and Alison Brie, both of whom are fine in the film, but the derivative and predictable story combined with lackluster action prevents this film from being the crowd pleaser it intended to be.
Action comedies are a dime a dozen these days, and while there are many great films in the genre that deliver an enjoyable experience, like last year’s The Lost City, there are sadly many films that fail to stand out from the crowd. These films typically rely on the star power of its leads, and there is no denying that John Cena and Alison Brie have the requisite power to get audiences interested in this film. Though sadly, the film does not support them to create the entertaining action comedy they both deserve to be in.
Ex-special forces agent Mason Petit is tired of his day job of being a lawyer, while his life at home is less than optimal as he and his wife are in a rough patch. When his old special forces buddy offers him a job as private security for Claire Wellington, an intrepid reporter, as she travels to Paldonia to interview the country’s stylish dictator president, Juan Venegas, Mason reluctantly agrees. However, within hours of landing in Paldonia, Mason finds himself and Claire in the middle of a military coup, in which Mason must navigate both Claire and Juan to safety to get out of the country alive.
For better or for worse, there is nothing truly notable about Freelance. It is your run of the mill action comedy with a generic plot. You can guess every plot twist that is about to be thrown your way before it happens, and while they are not bad, the story never strives to be its own distinct entity or try to differentiate itself from other films in the genre. While this prevents the film from being terrible, it does not set it up to be a memorable watch as you do not feel any stakes in the story. Never for a second do you worry that one of the main characters is in actual danger or at risk of not surviving the film. In fact, you are certain of a happy ending from the outset and know exactly how the story will end. Not helping is the comedy elements being very hit or miss; some gags will generate some modest laughter, while the majority of the jokes land flat. The action is bland, never delivering the high octane entertainment viewers are expecting and is held back by the questionable CGI at times, making you question how this film was directed by the same director of Taken. It’s not the worst film you can spend your time watching, nor is it the best use of your time; it is merely that film that will eventually end up on a streamer, you will select because of the stars and instantly forget the second the credits begin rolling.
The biggest draw for the film is Cena and Brie in the lead roles. As actors, I enjoy both of them and am willing to watch anything they star in. Both are well suited for their roles, Cena as the ex-special forces bodyguard in the stereotypical action hero role and Brie as the tenacious reporter trying to reclaim her career with a once in a lifetime interview. Their performances are fine, they both do what is asked of them by the screenplay, but neither seem to make an extra effort to make this film something special. They are good screen partners for each other, as it is visibly clear they are having fun with each other making this film. But, having seen them both before, being incredibly funny and having great on screen chemistry with past co-stars, you can’t help but imagine that they weren’t the perfect match for each other.
Much to my surprise, the standout of the film was Juan Pablo Raba as Juan Venegas, the dictator president of Paldonia. Raba brings an infectious energy to the film, creating the lovable, whacky dictator ruler of Paldonia. His comedic timing is impeccable, elevating each scene with a smile and good laugh as he skips his way through the film. Every scene he has, he instantly steals the spotlight, finding the comedic energy that the rest of the film so greatly needed to make this action comedy work. He bounces off Cena and Brie perfectly, helping to create the best part of their performances. At the same time, Raba brings some necessary dramatic weight to the film as he shares his character’s view for Paldonia, most notably during his big interview scene with Brie’s Claire. Simply put, without Raba’s performance, the film does not work.
Writing a review for a film like this is not easy. Freelance plays it far too safe, never trying anything new or exciting that causes the film to fall flat on its face, but there is very little going for it to make it a truly enjoyable film. There is no question that John Cena and Alison Brie are cast appropriately, but the screenplay fails to deliver them any exciting material, making Freelance a rather disappointing action comedy that fails to serve up the requisite action or comedy, apart from a truly great performance from Juan Pablo Raba who is the shining star of the film.