Following his heroic wartime feats, Mason Petite finds himself stuck in the doldrums of mundanity. His marriage is ripping apart at the seams. A half-hearted transition to a cynical law practice debases his once-admirable virtues. Worst of all, Mason’s now-ordinary existence is devoid of the spark that once provided him with purpose.
Mason’s journey traverses down a new path when a former colleague offers him a simple security gig — watch over a journalist tasked with interviewing a political leader embroiled in controversy. When a coup breaks out, Mason is thrust back into battle to protect his client and discover the truth in the action romp “Freelance. “
Readers, do not take the premise’s hints at political intrigue and emotional existentialism too seriously, as “Freelance” stumbles into theaters as a reasonably straightforward movie star vehicle for former WWE legend John Cena.
Similar to Dwayne Johnson and Dave Bautista, Cena has firmly established his dynamic acting chops on the screen. He boasts an affable meathead energy in several projects, such as “Bumblebee” and “Blockers.” However, within this macho presence, Cena often discovers layers of intrigue. His work as Peacekeeper in the DC Universe is especially impactful, with the actor deftly wrestling with the violent conditions that formed the character’s hardened, warmongering shell.
As one could judge by “Freelance’s” abominable 0% Rotten Tomatoes score, this film is not interested in exploring Cena’s profundity or anything of particular substance. To be honest, that’s perfectly okay with me. While I would struggle to label “Freelance” as an accomplished film, it does provide a decent dose of amusement for viewers searching for a breezy action/comedy hybrid.
“Freelance” operates like a live-action cartoon. Every character moment and narrative beat lives in its own implausible, one-dimensional world where everything is dialed up to the utmost extremes. Within this approach lies a zany vibrancy that delivers fun in inconsistent doses. Cena, “Community” star Allison Brie and Juan Pablo Raba establish a lively comedic rapport as Mason, journalist Claire Wellington and President Juan Venegas. Even when the jokes clumsily facepalm, the actors infuse a dynamic pulse to drag the material forward with a wink and a smile.
The action sequences here are similarly endearing in their makeshift design. “Taken” Director Pierre Morel turns the film’s limited budgetary assists into a strength, deploying scrappy techniques that inject some verve into fairly mundane setpieces. Inclusions like POV camerawork and practical blood effects are not always convincing. Still, they display more creative vitality than several blockbusters with much more resources at their disposal (looking at you, Marvel).
Don’t get me wrong, “Freelance’s” strengths are equally balanced by its frequent falterings. The narrative is an aimless mess that jockeys between farce and maudlin melodrama. I think the movie would feel more cohesive if it fully embraced its inherent silliness, but we are instead subjected to countless scenes that drive forward without clear direction. The third act becomes especially laborious as screenwriter Jacob Lentz haphazardly chucks exposition at the wall without consideration. In addition, while I award the film points for its competence, “Freelance’s” limited charms never shake the”been there, done that” deja vu feeling that emanates throughout its runtime.
Did I enjoy “Freelance?” My answer to that would be “sort of,” which is sadly the best review this film has received to date (quote that one on the DVD cover!). The movie delivers an amiable yet entirely disposable experience well-suited for mildly engaging viewers scrolling through their streaming services.