Actor John Cena is shown in Baghdad signing autographs for soldiers at Forward Operating Base Loyalty in this file photo from 2008. His film, "Freelance," is released by Relativity Films. (OSV News photo/CC-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)

NEW YORK (OSV News) – Attentive viewers will discern some positive moral values underlying the plot of the action comedy “Freelance” (Relativity). The difficulty is that such audience concentration on this slipshod film will also reveal its subpar status even as a source of casual entertainment.

John Cena stars as he-man Mason Petits. As explained in an opening voice-over, convinced that he would be bored with family life in the suburbs, youthful law school student Mason suddenly abandoned his studies to become an Army Ranger instead.

The unlikely choice turned out to be a good one since Mason loved being in the military. But, when a mission to overthrow Juan Venegas (Juan Pablo Raba) – the notorious dictator of the fictional South American nation of Paldonia – went horribly awry, Mason was so badly wounded that he had to leave the service and return to the civilian world.

Fast forward to the present and Mason has acquired a wife, Jenny (Alice Eve), and a daughter, Casey (Molly McCann). But his career is stalled and he’s so stultified and restless that it’s taking a toll on his marriage. So when his friend and former comrade Sebastian (Christian Slater), who now heads a security outfit, offers him a temporary job, Mason is initially open to the idea.

However, on learning that his task will be to serve as bodyguard to reporter Claire Wellington (Alison Brie) during a journey to Paldonia – where Venegas has offered the journalist a rare interview – Mason hesitates. When Sebastian throws a large fee into the balance, though, it does the trick and Mason agrees to go.

No sooner do Mason and Claire land in Paldonia than a coup breaks out and the presidential limo in which they’re riding is ambushed. Predictably, Mason succeeds in beating back the onslaught and saving both Claire and Venegas. But this leaves the trio wandering around in the jungle while Mason trades fire with uniformed extras to no particular purpose.

As scripted by Jacob Lentz and directed by Pierre Morel, “Freelance” eventually pushes back against Mason’s cynicism about domestic tranquility, vindicating the value of marital fidelity and clan reconciliation. But the movie’s forays into geopolitics and global economics are naively simplistic with America depicted as the world’s manipulative Bad Guy.

By the time the credits roll, Morel has staged a large-scale climactic showdown that litters the ground with corpses. And the gunplay by which they and their numerous predecessors in earlier scenes are laid low is sometimes quite graphic.

Blending this mayhem with humor drawing on Venegas’ suavity and the cross-purposes at which Mason and Claire are constantly working makes for an unstable tone. Seemingly uncertain where it wants to end up, the picture spins its wheels and, in the end, goes nowhere.

The film contains considerable bloody violence, brief rear nudity, anatomical humor, a couple of profanities, a few milder oaths, several uses each of rough and crude language and an obscene gesture. The OSV News classification is A-III – adults. The Motion Picture Association rating is R – restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.


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