The blending of films can be a perplexing one. However, just like a good recipe, such conditions and create something that unique and profound, amping up the cinematic flavoring for some crossover viewing consumptions. Dramas and thrillers, sci-fi and comedy, horror and fantasy are just some of the mixtures that have been proven to work with such cinematic representations finding rewards (and sometimes failures) in blending film genres together. Perhaps the most successful of such crossbreeding attempts can be found within the action-comedy, a subgenre that is more action that comedy or even could even be more comedy than action. While the balance of such production brings out the best in of both of those components, there are a few that find a proper medium in amongst its action variety thrills and goofy comedic angst. Such prime examples of this can be found in several movies such as 1994’s True Lies, 1995’s Bad Boys, 2007’s Hot Fuzz, 2012’s Jump Street, 2015’s Spy, 2016’s Free Fire, 2021’s The Suicide Squad, and many others. Now, Relatively Media and director Pierre Morel present the latest film in the action-comedy subgenre with the release of Freelance. Does this movie strike gold with its comedy gags and action tropes or is it a haphazard mashup that lacks both elements for an otherwise recycled and bland presentation?


Looking not to pursue the 9-to-5 workman routine of mundane life, Mason Petits (John Cena) elected to challenge his life, joining the Army Special Forces, only to encounter an unexpected attack while his squad was in the country of Paldonia, leaving him with severe back injury and guilt over the loss of his fellow soldiers. Now, Mason is a lawyer and living the suburban life, with his wife, Jenny (Alice Eve) and their child, Casey (Molly McCann), as the ex-soldier is feeling the emptiness he once went as well as dealing with domestic problems such as the possibility of divorce. Turning to his old war buddy friend, Sebastian Earle (Christan Slater), who is now in charge of Contracted Defense Initiatives, Mason is gets his opportunity to shine once again in the military private sector, offering quick money for his friend to accompany journalist Claire Wellington (Alison Brie) to Paldonia, where she plans to interview the nation’s leader, President Juan Venegas (Juan Pablo Raba), a flamboyant yet controversial authority figure. Entering the country, Mason and Claire meet up with President Juan, only to come under attack by a rebel army trying to stage a coup, putting the trio on the run in the country’s jungle as they attempt to understand the chaos of the nation’s government, which is being overseen by the Colonel Jan Koehorst (Marton Csokas), a South African mercenary trying to take control of Paldonia by installing Juan’s nephew, Jorge Vasquez (Sebastian Eslava) as the new president.


What can I say….i do love a good action movie as well as a good-hearted (laugh inducing) comedy feature; finding both to have equal measures of different variety (strengths and weakness throughout the many endeavors), yet still able to enjoyment within these two pieces….as a whole. The marriage of such two genres can be a bit abrasive at times, especially if the mixture is presented the right way, but the action-comedy projects have a “special ingredient” (in my opinion) that can something new and exciting; brushing up against dangers and action sequences, while also finding the humor and comedic timing in amongst some sticky situations / predicaments. Some of my personal favorites of this subgenre would have to be some like the three Bad Boys movies (probably Bad Boys II is favorite of them), both Jump Street movies (21 and 22), and Hot Fuzz just to name a few. That’s not to say all of these picture’s strike “cinematic gold” as there is a great host of failed action-comedy movies out there that failed to make a proper connection with viewers (like myself) and certainly “miss their mark” on their intended projections. In the end, while not the most original of the movie subgenres out there, the action-comedy feature films have proven to be quite effective pull from moviegoers everywhere, finding a somewhat “sweet spot” in amongst action frivolities and comedic laughs along the way.

This brings me back around to talking about Freelance, a 2023 action-comedy and the latest film of this blending of these two very distinct genres. To be quite honest, I really didn’t hear much about this movie when it was announced. It sort of went “under the radar” for most people as I didn’t see any type of interesting, news, or any form tidbit info about this upcoming project on the some of the more popular movie related websites that I frequently visit. Heck, I didn’t even see the film’s movie trailer appear on either online or in-theaters (during the “coming attractions” previews), which is very odd. A week before its release, I think I remember hearing about this movie that was going to star wrestler / actor John Cena and that it was going to be action-comedy endeavor. As mentioned, I’m always down to see such a project, so I was probably going to go see it, despite seeing any type of movie trailer previews for it. I think a day or two before I planned on seeing it, I began to read about advance reviews for the film and most of them were negative, which didn’t bode well for my interest in seeing it. Still, despite that notion, I did decide to go check out Freelance when it was released on October 27th, 2023, which I did see on its opening day after work. However, due to my work schedule during the holidays as well as more prominent movies that were going to be coming out during those next couple of weeks, I decided to push back getting my review done for this film until I had some “free time” to write it up. Now, that free time has arrived, and I am ready to share my thoughts on this movie? And what did I think of it? Well, unfortunately, the negative reviews about this movie are true. Despite a few minor aspects and a recognizable cast, Freelance is utterly bland and derivate action-comedy movie that lacks the necessary “kick” for its action and is quite lackluster within its comedic nuances. Couple with very “cookie cutter” caricatures, a generically weak story, and a severely misguided direction, one is simply left with a messy and outdated production that feels quite out of place and totally forgettable.

Freelance is directed by Pierre Morel, whose previous directorial works include such films as Taken, Peppermint, and The Gunman. Given his background with action genre, Morel does seem like a somewhat suitable choice to helm a project like this, approaching the material with some sense of action-oriented nuances throughout as well as balancing the feature with just enough comedic levity dialogue moments and / or scenarios to throw into the mix. While not exactly best or sharpest concoction to be made for this genre, Morel does somewhat know how to make the project a bit “self-aware” of some ridiculous moments come across and lays it on thick with its corny-esque one-liners and zippy quips. The action itself is average, with Morel staging a few key parts to make for some decent action dramatics. Basically, Morel doesn’t make Freelance too rigid or overly dramatic throughout, but instead make the entire endeavor a bit of fun and lighthearted, despite some of the more explosive actions scenes of gunfights and chase sequences. Overall, Morell does know what he wants from this movie and gives Freelance a certain type of swagger (although a generic one at that) to make the whole endeavor light on its toes and doesn’t get dragged / bogged down with too many details and offers a somewhat breezy runtime.

For its presentation, Freelance looks decent at best with the background setting and environment meeting the industry standards of an action-comedy endeavor. The heavy and dense jungle locations look good as well as some of the exterior shots of the Paldonia villages, but pretty much everything else just sort of blends in a bit too much; offering up a generic background setting in some type of “dictator” landscape country (you’ll know it when you see it). Still, I do have to give somewhat credit to the film’s “behind the scenes” team, including Eugenio Garcia (production design), Diego Garcia (art direction), Juan David Bernal and Rafa Withingham (set decorations), and Ana Maria Urrea (costume designs) for their efforts made on this project. The cinematography work by Thierry Arbogast is also average at best with a few creative shots here and there that are implanted in the feature, but there is nothing to completely rave about. Likewise, the film’s score, which was composed by Elliot Leung and Geoff Zanelli, is okay for this movie. It does hit some of the correct notes and tones in the feature’s presentation, but it’s not exactly the riveting or memorable movie score / soundtrack I’ve heard. It gets the job done, but nothing else.

Unfortunately, Freelance is riddled with glaring and numerous problematic areas, which plagued the entire feature and weigh it down considerably. How so? Well, for starters, one of the big problems that the movie has is how everything about feels quite generic and formulaic. From start to finish, everything about Freelance just feels like it’s been done before and in better projects out there. The whole feature reeks of derivate work from both genres that the subgenre is pulling from. The action in the film is rather bland to say the least, with what’s presented feeling generic and almost “run-of-the-mill” and not the quite clever when it comes to its staging / execution of them. There is some fun to them, but not enough to be “wowed” over, with most (if not all) feeling rather formulaic action scenes. Despite Morel’s background in the action film genre, there is very little in the way of surprises for its action stunts, It all just feels quite unoriginal and recycled tropes from the genre and other movies entirely, with very little in the way of excitement or creativity. Likewise, the comedic aspect in Freelance is mostly rather dry and dull, finding very little creative gags and jokes beyond the “base level” on even those ones aren’t good. The comedy nuances also feel dated as if they were written back in the early to middle 2010s era, punching out stall jokes and comedic quips that don’t exactly any type of chuckle or comedy levity throughout the entire picture. I barely laughed and / or chuckled in the movie and found this particular aspect incredibly weak.

Another problem that the movie faces is found within its story or rather the script of how everything plays out in Freelance. The script, which was penned by Jacob Lentz, seems rather cookie-cutter when it comes to narrative storytelling, proving the same old humdrum story of an old / injured soldier jumping back into the thick of action and getting entangled into some crazy mess of a situation to put things right; learning a thing or two along the way as well as people who help / hinder in pursuit of completing his goal. As stated, it’s all been done before and in better projects out there, with Lentz’s script writing for Freelance totally predictable and undercooked all the way around. In truth, the tale being told is quite weak, missing a few important pieces and feeling quite choppy as if a lot of material was dropped and left on the cutting room floor (both in editing and storyboarding). There is very little in the way so surprises or twists as events came be seeing coming before they arrive, and the ultimate journey of the story / characters feels rather formulaic in all shapes and forms. Even some of the political turmoil that the plot tries to present seems wasteful and bland, never really garnishing any type of thematic tones or understand of what it wants to say in such addressing of leadership. Plus, the written dialogue itself is handled in rather clunky manner, with such stiff and forgettable wording for the movie’s characters that are quite cringeworthy and / or terrible outright. Basically, most (if not all) of the comedy in the movie is DOA (dead on arrival) ….and that’s quite a bad thing for an action-comedy presentation.

Even Morel’s direction for the feature feels half-baked and underwhelming right from the get-go. Nothing about the movie is remarkable and Morel’s directing skills lack the attention detail to such an endeavor, especially when it comes trying to drum up such ingenuity into the film. The result is something that feels quite derivate and rather boring to watch; finding Freelance’s to be one of the worst movies he’s ever done. Lastly, I do have to mentioned some quite dated CGI green screen moments that occur in a few areas in the movie. I do get it that sometimes this tactic is needed to help great the cinematic illusion of certain things happening, especially in the background, but what’s presented in the film seems rather odd and clunky. There is quite the “sloppy” patch work production, with all of the sequences that uses green screen effects feeling outdated and cheap looking, which completely renders the movie laughable….and not in a good way.

The cast in Freelance is another bad selling point for the movie. Well, let me rephrase that a little bit…. I think that the acting talent involved on this project is pretty good, especially since I do recognize most of the principal selection of actors and actresses assembled for this feature, but the characters themselves (basically…. how they are written) and how they are somewhat performed is where the criticisms come into play. Moreover, the characters in Freelance are totally “cookie cutter” caricatures that basically walking tropes of the action-comedy genre with very little in the ways and means of presenting ingenuity and creativity thrown into them, which is hugely disappointing. Leading the charge in the movie is former wrestler / actor John Cena as the movie’s protagonist character Mason Petits. Known for his roles in Blockers, Ferdinand, and 12 Rounds, Cena has certainly become a very profitable performer throughout his career, taking the stage with his “larger-than-life” screen presence and that could only rival someone like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in his actor parts and comparison. Thus, for a character like Mason Petits and in an action-comedy production like this, Cena does seem like the most suitable choice as a former soldier who wants to get back “in the game” and find more purpose in his life than just the mundane suburban lifestyle. And, as I said, Cena has quite charismatic screen presence to make his portrayal of many of his past characters likeable and memorable at the same time. In Freelance, however, Cena’s charm can’t overcome how utterly bland and generic the character of Mason is. In truth, the character is rather weak and doesn’t really have much beyond a simple arc to follow. There was a little bit creative take on the character in the beginning, but it does get squash immediately after that as the plotting for Mason gets a rather straightforward” path that is quite formulaic and predictable. Cena certainly does try to utilize his acting talent to help elevate how the character is poorly written, but even him can’t make the character of Mason Petits interesting or even come alive beyond his initial setup and vanilla narrative story arc in the movie, which is quite disappointing.

In similar way, actress Alison Brie (Community and How to be Single) feels like she could’ve been the right fit in the role of Claire Wellington, a journalist who is loving to interview the President of Paldonia and who Mason is sent to protect, but the character comes off as too whiny, pretentious, and not much so going for her beyond the classic tropes and traps. Brie is a capable actress and someone who I do like, but as Claire Wellington…. she becomes quite annoying. She has a few “tit-for-tat” banter moments with Cena that actually do work on-screen, but, for the most part, the written dialogue for those lines is rather limp and quite dull, rendering many of the punch lines (as mentioned above) missing their targets. Plus, her character growth in the movie is quite predictable, with very little surprises thrown into the mix. Likewise, actor Juan Pablo Raba (Narcos and The 33) does a somewhat decent job as President Juan Venegas, the dictator-like ruler of Paldonia. It is quite a bit amusing to see the character give a sort of turn-around persona as an authoritative figure to a goofier and more comedic one as the story progresses and I think that Raba does do a good job in portraying that quite well on-screen. In truth, it’s actually some of his comedic bits that I actually work the best in the movie. The character, however, is a bit mundane and generic to watch and becomes a tad tiresome as the film’s plot progresses. In the end, if I had to pick a certain one of these three (Cena, Brie, and Raba) that I liked in the movie, I probably would have to go with Raba’s Juan, but that’s not saying much.

What’s even worst is many of the supporting players on the project, who are woefully underutilized and just don’t make much of lasting / memorable impact on the film to make a difference. Who actually fares the worst is the character of Colonel Jan Koehorst, a South African mercenary who is the mastermind beyond the coup of Paldonia, and who is played by actor Marton Csokas (Kingdom of Heaven and Equalizer). I definitely get what the character is trying to be and how he fits into the main narrative, but (sadly) he’s quite forgetful and generic right from the get-go. There is no growth, no development, and basically nothing that makes him stand out to dozens upon dozens “bad guys” you’ve seeing in action oriented movies (i.e. the ruthless mercenary). Plus, Csokas, an actor who I like in a lot of his past roles / projects, is must totally bland in the movie and get “make his mark” on the character of Jan Koehorst, which renders the main villain of Freelance forgettable and unmemorable. Additionally, actor Christan Slatter (Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and Broken Arrow) appears in the movie as Sebastian Earle, Mason’s former soldier comrade who now works in the private security sector. Slate is decent in the movie and I really don’t have much gripes with him as an actor, but the character seems more like an afterthought, sporadically appearing in and out of Freelance’s story, with very little impact on him or his character of Sebastian Earle.

Other side / supporting characters, including actress Alice Eve (She’s Out of Your League and Star Trek Into Darkness) as Mason’s wife Jenny Petits, actress Molly McCann (The Holiday and Sweetness in the Belly) as Mason / Jenny’s daughter Casey Petits, actor Sebastian Eslava (Narcos and Paraiso Travel) as Juan’s nephew Jorge Vasquez, actor Roberto Cano (La Lectora and Los Billis) as Eduardo Lovato, are totally thruway characters, despite being minor players in the movie’s grand scheme of things. It’s disappointing as some have the potential to be something a bit more (i.e. Eve’s Jenny), but all of these talents are quite undercooked in their limited screen time and the talents that play them are undersold right from the get-go.


Feeling lost about his current stage of his life, ex-military soldier Mason Petits gets his chance to go back “into the field” as hired enforcer for a reporter, but gets entangled in a military coup with the nation of Palondia’s president in the movie Freelance. Director Pierre Morel’s latest film takes a more comedic approach to his action genre filmmaking style, with a narrative that tries to mix the two together for a romp of military action style sequences that rubs up against goofy angst and comedy quips abound, while also focusing on the “underneath” layer of characters amongst the main roster of heroes and villains. While the movie does try to elevate its story with a recognizable acting pool of actors / actresses and tries to give a credence measure of comedic points and character-based moments, the movie itself is quite abundantly poorly conceived and poorly executed, especially with Morell’s direction, a derivate (and generic) script, bad dialogue, terrible (and dated) comedy jokes / gags, clunky progression, dated CGI renderings, bland throwaway characters, and severely underdeveloped pull from the cast involved on this project. As one can easily summarize, I didn’t particular care for this movie…. at all. There was definitely some potential within the first twenty or so minutes of the film, but after that, the movie fizzles out rather quickly, becoming more of a dumpster fire chore to watch. Everything about this movie is so derivatively cliché….and not in a good way.  It was a very dull story, duller action, DOA (dead on arrival) comedy, and practical waste of acting talent, with many recognizable names not properly utilized. I didn’t expect much from this movie, so I wasn’t expecting anything grand or mind-blowing, but I was definitely expecting a far better movie than what was presented as the final cut of the film. With all that being said, my recommendation for this movie is a dismal “skip it” as there is very little reason to see this movie. If you like action, get your adrenaline filled kicks elsewhere. If you like comedy, you’ll get better chuckles on other endeavors. If you were interested in the cast attached, you’ll find them on some of their other projects. In short, Freelance is jumbled “hot mess” of a movie that is quite limp and flat production that never gets off the ground and is far less effective picture of the action-comedy variety.

1.3 Out of 5 (Skip It)


Released On: October 27th, 2023
Reviewed On: February 2ns, 2024

Freelance  is 109 minutes long and is rated R for language and violence throughout

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