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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Nov 6, 2023



‘FREELANCE’ is an action-comedy starring John Cena. This is the kind of action flick that critics love to tear into bits, calling it brainless, boring. 

It’s directed by Pierre Morel, who also helmed “Taken” in 2008, which was also lambasted by critics, but went on to become a worldwide hit, transforming the career of Liam Neeson as an action star.

John Cena is a wrestler who became a movie star doing lead roles in films like “The Marine”, “Trainwreck” and “Bumblebee”. Lately, though, he’s been relegated to supporting roles in films like “Fast & Furious 9 & 10” and “Barbie”.

He has yet to reach the kind of stardom another wrestler like him, The Rock aka Dwayne Johnson, has achieved. In “Freelance”, he gets to play another solo lead role and makes the most of it. 

His character, Mason Pettits, narrates the film himself. 

He used to be a Special Forces operative but has to retire when he was injured in a tragic mission to kill a notorious Latin American dictator, Juan Venegas (Juan Pablo Raba), of a fictitious country called Paldonia.

He then became a lawyer, got married to a supportive wife (Alice Eve) and had a lovely daughter, but he is just bored with his humdrum life, his deadend job and is looking for action. 

A former colleague (Christian Slater) offers him a freelance job as special security bodyguard for a celebrity journalist, Claire Wellington (Alison Brie, “Somebody I Used to Know”.) 

Claire was given the rare chance to interview in person the elusive President Venegas of Paldonia. It’s a big scoop she certainly won’t miss, so John as Mason accompanies her to Paldonia. 

Venegas himself fetches them at the airport and they’re on their way to the city when armed men suddenly ambushed them to kill Venegas in an attempted coup made by his own nephew. 

But John is not a special forces guy for nothing. 

He singlehandedly kills all the guys who are trying to murder Venegas, who then escapes with Claire and him into the dense jungle. 

They then must figure out how to survive the heavy artillery fire and come out of it alive and still kicking. 

With John Cena as the indestructible hero, it is easy to see where all this is going. 

In all fairness to him, he attacks his role with much energy and charm. 

He is matched by the venom of the main villain (Martin Csokas), who has so many  past wrongdoings as a mercenary working for avaricious oligarchs, including botching up the original plan to kill Venegas that injured John and killed most of his companions some years ago.

The film also clearly wants to make some serious political commentary, and this, we believe, is why it didn’t go well with western critics. 

It turns out that Venegas is not really the villain as he only wants to protect the natural resources of his country that some greedy international entities want to acquire and exploit.    

This is a valid message as the political machinations of greedy imperialist big businesses to access and exploit developing countries is common knowledge. 

Pierre Morel is also the director of the acclaimed French action flick, “District B-13” so the action set pieces are truly first rate. 

The effects are quite spectacular and the stunts and fight scenes are well executed. 

John supplies all the physical requirements of his action role but also tries to make his character more vulnerable, groaning and moaning because of his past injuries.

Alison fills the bill as the contemptuous reporter who also knows how to be flirtatious when it’s needed.

But of them are often upstaged by the scenery-chewing Spanish actor Juan Pablo Raba, who’s obviously hoping his lengthy role as the appealing but very wily dictator here would land him more assignments in Hollywood.