Freelancers (2012) – Review

3 Stars


Freelancers is a better than average crime thriller, with story elements and actors ripped from classier productions. Oscar winners Robert DeNiro and Forest Whitaker add major presence and prestige to this tale of rouge cops with shifting loyalties, who are living high outside the law. This hard boiled, gripping melodrama is not going to win any awards but it offers solid entertainment and the chance to see some good acting from veteran thespians. Curtis ’50 Cent’ Jackson is the orphaned son of a cop, and former hell raiser turned reformed police officer. Almost immediately after graduating from the academy, he is recruited into the street vice task force, populated by a rogues gallery of corrupt cops freely breaking the law, while keep up the appearance of order. The leader of the gang in blue is Joe Sarcone (De Niro), a cop who was partners with Malo’s father, when he was killed in the line of duty. Because of guilt De Niro’s character recruits Jackson into the tights knit squad. Joe states that it is Malo’s birthright to be part of this wild police fraternity. A powerful and well connected group that is described as, “Deep and invisible all the way up to the man’s office”. Like most, this fraternity requires a lifetime membership.

Once on the job, Malo is partnered with a loose cannon, coke-snorting detective, LaRue (Whitaker), who also serves as Sarcone’s right hand man. Inevitably Malo becomes increasingly disillusioned and ashamed of the outlaw tactics he resorts to, in the name of protection and service. Meanwhile there is another story thread that follows the progression of Malo’s two academy brothers, one Caucasian and the other black, as they deal with militant and prejudice training officers. This climaxes with a fantastic sequence in which a stand-off takes an unexpected turn. It’s a spellbinding scene, perhaps the best moment in the entire movie and it sets up the central conflicts and themes that echo throughout the film. Unfortunately the story peaks early, nothing that comes after is as exciting and the film begins to feel longer than its 95 minute running-time.

The screenplay by writer L. Philippe Casseus is interesting and well thought out, if a bit too complicated in the last act. Things become a tad over-plotted as it is difficult to keep up with every characters’ motivations and actions. The direction from frequent Jackson collaborator, Jessy Terrero, is confident and sharp, perhaps working with the big name cast forced him to step up his game. It is far and away the best work yet from Terrero. Of course the biggest enjoyment is watching De Niro do his tough guy shtick. It’s not that I was surprised De Niro is still capable of being venomous and good, of course his body of work speaks for itself. But in some of these lower budgeted productions he has a tendency to look uninspired, here he is alert and sharp playing a familiar role but adding a sense of menace that has been missing for years. Whitaker is a live wire as the perpetually buzzed partner prone to instigation and insults. Believe it or not, Curtis Jackson holds his own on the screen against these acting heavyweights. Freelancers may be silly and derivative, but it is also intermediately gripping.

Director: Jessy Terrero
Stars: 50 Cent, Robert De Niro, Forest Whitaker

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