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Freelance Review

October 27, 2023 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
Freelance John Cena Alison Brie Image Credit: Relativity Media
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Freelance Review  

Directed By: Pierre Morel
Written By: Jacob Lentz
Runtime: 109 minutes
MPA Rating: Rated R for violence and language

John Cena – Mason Pettits
Alison Brie – Claire Wellington
Juan Pablo Raba – President Juan Venegas
Alice Eve – Mrs. Pettits
Christian Slater – Sebastian Earle
Molly McCann – Casey Pettits

John Cena’s latest flick is the action-comedy Freelance. Unfortunately, this uneven action outing from Taken filmmaker Pierre Morel is a muted, low-grade movie that doesn’t even look like it was suitable for a theatrical release. While the film presents itself as an action comedy, it lacks significant laughs or high-octane action thrills.

Cena stars as the ex-Special Forces soldier Mason Pettits, forced to retire from active duty after being injured during a mission that went FUBAR. His combat injury forces him to take up a miserable 9-to-5 as a small-time lawyer. Pettits is unhappy with his lot in life, finding purpose in life as a soldier, but it’s making things difficult at home with his wife (Alice Eve) and young daughter Casey (Molly McCann). While his marriage is on the rocks and nearing separation, Mason gets a call from his old war buddy, Sebastian Earle (Slater), who has set up shop as a high-powered private security mogul since retiring from government work. He wants to assign Mason as the security detail for disgraced journalist Claire Wellington (Brie), who is about to embark on a trip to the nation of Paldonia.

The country’s sovereign leader, President Juan Venegas (Pablo Raba), is granting Claire a rare interview. Coincidentally, President Venegas was the guy Mason and Sebastian were assigned to execute in their last mission that went bad. After landing, their convoy is attacked, and it looks like Mason and Claire have just landed smack dab in the middle of a military coup by Venegas’ nephew, aided by private mercenaries who want to exploit the country’s resources. It’s now up to Mason to help the group survive this ordeal, as he discovers that President Venegas is not the brutal, vicious dictator the public makes him out to be.

Watching Freelance, it’s hard to believe Pierre Morel is the same director behind such films as Taken and District B13. Freelance has none of the energy, action-packed suspense, or dynamic pacing of those films. Morel directs Freelance like a wacky, zany buddy comedy except the movie isn’t funny. The movie lacks anything in the way of amusing humor or jokes. Cena does not have any especially memorable chemistry with his costars.

Cena isn’t the worst when it comes to acting or being a leading man. His work on Peacemaker proves that. However, Cena is a specific type of performer with a unique brand of charisma that his role in Freelance fails to exploit. Cena is so low-key and stoic here that he’s boring. It’s reminiscent of his earlier film roles before he found his niche. Mason’s relationship with Claire doesn’t go anywhere since Mason is still loyal to his wife, but Mason doesn’t have anything resembling chemistry with Alice Eve either, who sadly plays a throwaway role here as Mason’s concerned, nearly estranged spouse.

Morel fills the movie with multiple action scenes, but none of those scenes look particularly inspiring or impressive to watch. The action throughout the film looks muted and low-effort. Whenever there is a big stunt, it never looks marvelous or eye-popping. Freelance doesn’t look like a movie meant to be shown on the big screen, where the stunts look more artificial and cheaply executed.

The movie weirdly tends to favor Juan Pablo Raba, who is positioned more as the true hero and protagonist of the story as it unfolds. It appears President Venegas merely feigns his whole ruthless dictator act. Deep down, the man truly has a heart of gold, but the film errs in cementing him as a likable, charming character.

Despite a strong cast, no one comes out of Freelance looking good. It’s shocking that this cast and crew put together something so execrable or that the film is even getting a theatrical release in the first place.

The final score: review Very Bad
The 411
Freelance is a low-rent, low-frills, low-energy action-comedy. Despite the copious talent of a strong cast, they fail to elevate the experience to something remotely entertaining. The film poorly exploits Cena's unique talents, the action and stunt scenes aren't memorable, nor is it all that funny despite the wacky comedic tone. Freelance is a throwaway film with little going for it.