In a world where Monday’s are the worst day of the week, one Monday shines out above the rest. Regal’s Monday Mystery Movie (MMM) offers viewers a chance to see an unreleased film before it hits theaters, and for only $5.
Regal’s most recent MMM showed on Oct. 9, and featured a film I was not expecting. After hours of sleuthing and scouring the internet for upcoming movies that fit the revealed rating and runtime, I thought I had it all figured out and had “The Holdovers” as my prediction.
But when army soldiers showed up on the screen, I knew my guess was way off. Instead of my suspected film, Regal showed “Freelance” starring John Cena.
Right off the bat, I knew this film was going to be a disappointment. The first few minutes of the movie are filmed in a POV style, which was enough to make even the sternest stomach a little motion sick. On top of that, the special effects immediately proved to be lacking.
The introductory scenes were done so poorly, I genuinely thought I was watching a video game clip and it was going to be revealed to the audience that we had been watching a video game character navigate fighting in the army and surviving an accident that ended his duty. Unfortunately there was no big reveal, the CGI and special effects were just horrible.
“Freelance” follows Mason Pettis (John Cena), a lawyer and ex special forces operative, as he takes a job doing private security for Claire Wellington (Alison Brie), a journalist desperate for work. So desperate in fact, that she’s willing to meet the merciless Dictator Juan Venegas (Juan Pablo Raba) for an interview in the war ridden country of Paldonia.
Once arriving, Pettis (Cena) and Wellington (Brie) are almost immediately thrown into the middle of a longstanding assisination attempt on Dictator Venegas by a military coup. The two of them, and Venegas, must escape the Paldonian jungle with their lives, all while trying to figure out exactly why Venegas has a target on his back.
The cast isn’t packed with recognizable names, but one actor I was quite excited to see was Christian Slater, who played Pettis’ former military friend and the man who hires Pettis on his unique freelance gig. I loved his portrayal of the psychotic mastermind J.D. in the 1988 film, “Heathers”, so I was both hopeful and excited to see what he would bring to the film.
But unfortunately, Slater proved that he doesn’t have much left to offer on the big screen. His time on screen was dull and left much to be desired. And he wasn’t the only one lacking.
Somehow, every actor delivered a lifeless and unbelievable performance that left me irritated with the characters. In their defense, they weren’t given the best dialogue to work with. It was flavorless and cliche and had it been stronger, this film would have stood a chance to be at least tolerable.
The screenplay was a jumbled mess with no consistency and so many cringe-worthy moments, “Freelance” was truly difficult to sit through.
The setting was one of the hardest aspects to follow. Since Paldonia isn’t a real country, it’s tough to know geographically where the film is happening, and the writers didn’t do a great job at helping the audience figure it out. At times, it seemed that perhaps even the writer’s didn’t know where Paldonia was supposed to be.
We hear South Africa mentioned several times throughout the film, which may be a hint at Paldonia’s location. However, the country of Paldonia is primarily Spanish speaking, and there’s only one country in South Africa that speaks Spanish. In addition, there’s a very quick shot of Paldonia on a map, where it looks as if it’s a part of South America.
The lack of bearings regarding Paldonia’s location didn’t necessarily impact the storyline, but it was very frustrating as a viewer to watch a movie and have no idea where it was supposed to be taking place.
Aside from the location, President/Dictator Juan Venegas (Raba) was another confusing aspect of the story. From the get-go, he’s painted to be a horrible leader that the people of Paldonia despise so much they want him dead. But as the story progresses, the politics of the film become painfully unclear and the audience is left to try and figure out who the bad guy really is.
If you’re wondering if the CGI in the film ever improved, the answer is no. From extremely unrealistic fake blood to over-used shoddy explosions, “Freelance” fell short of many other Hollywood film’s we’ve seen on the big screen this year.
It seems the $40 million budget may have gone solely to hiring John Cena, and wasn’t spent on the things that truly mattered like special effects, post production work and the movie’s score. Unfortunately, all of the underwhelming aspects of this film come together to create something altogether pointless.
“Freelance” is a film that never should have made it out of production. There isn’t enough solid humor for this to be considered a comedy, it’s not serious enough to qualify as a war drama and the action sequences aren’t nearly well done enough to make a great action movie.
Had it committed to one genre and played into it heavily, rather than trying to juggle being an action/comedy, “Freelance” could have turned out to be a decent movie. Even though it tries hard, it’s not campy enough to match the excellent gorey comedies we’ve seen this year like “Cocaine Bear” and “Renfield”.
Although this film isn’t good, it still isn’t the worst you’ll ever see, which leaves it in a sort of purgatory where it will inevitably join the land of forgotten films.
As for John Cena, perhaps he should stick to fighting in the WWE ring, and not in the country of Paldonia.
“Freelance” comes to theaters on Oct. 27, and unless you’re looking for a painfully mediocre time, I suggest you sit this one out.