FILM REVIEW — Cena makes “Freelance” more than a mediocre action film

Published 12:04 am Friday, October 27, 2023

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Relativity Media

Directed by Pierre Morel

Starring John Cena, Alison Brie, Juan Pablo Raba, Martin Csokas, Alice Eve and Christian Slater

Rated R

2 ½ Stars

“Freelance” is one of those by-the-numbers action flicks that will probably be maligned by critics and mostly ignored by audiences during its theatrical run. S

till, I suspect this movie will ultimately be a hit because it’s a perfect fit for those TV channels that need mid-level movies to fill up their afternoon time slots.

As for me, I’m left wondering why I enjoyed this film so much, especially as it’s decidedly mediocre. The answer boils down to two words. John Cena.

The man is such an appealing hero that I’m more than willing to forgive the film’s many shortcomings because of his undeniable charisma.

Cena stars as an Army Ranger injured during a mission to capture a South American dictator. Years later, he is given the opportunity to return as the bodyguard to a journalist (Alison Brie) who has scored an exclusive interview with that dictator (Juan Pablo Raba).

The problem is a coup breaks out and our hero is suddenly tasked with keeping the reporter, as well as El Presidente alive while multinational forces conspire to topple the country.

This isn’t exactly the most original plot ever, and if I’m being honest, the many action sequences are functional, but not particularly inspired. There’s nothing here that really sticks in your memory.

Yet with Cena behind the machine guns, the fight sequences have just enough appeal to get your pulse racing.

I love that John Cena is one of those modern heroes who has always been willing to poke fun at his action hero persona. He’s a chiseled mountain of a man, but he approaches this role as if he’s just an average Joe who can’t quite decide if he’s happy to be a part of this adventure or not.

I’m also impressed by Juan Pablo Raba, an actor I’ve not seen before. He is absolutely charming playing a political figure who is equal parts snake-charmer and genuine patriot. It would be hard to be invested in his survival if he was a total villain, so casting such a charismatic actor makes it easy to cheer for our heroes in the film’s final moments.

I don’t think that Brie fares as well, but she’s stuck playing the hard-edged reporter turned potential love interest. Her character is written as a bit of a caricature, so it’s understandable that she doesn’t make as much as an impact as her macho co-stars.

And if I’m being honest, “Freelance” doesn’t make much of an impact either. The plot is simple, and the action seldom rises to the point where it’s genuinely memorable.

I won’t pretend that this is a great movie, but it is a serviceable piece of genre filmmaking, and Cena brings just enough everyman relatability to the role that it becomes a fun, but absolutely disposable little action adventure.

Movie reviews by Sean McBride, “The Movie Guy,” are published each week by Orange Newsmedia and seen weekly on KFDM and Fox4. Sean welcomes your comments via email at