Freelancers (2012)

(On Cable TV, April 2012) One nearly every level, Freelancers is the quasi-definition of an average corrupt-cop drama. Teenage hoodlums-turned-cops spend their first few days on the job confronting racist and drug-using veterans, before turning the tables on a spectacularly corrupt ring of insiders. There’s little here that hasn’t been done elsewhere in much more compelling fashion. Still, Freelancers has a slightly different rhythm: it’s talky, generally restrained in its use of loud action sequences (although some of the more corrupt cops seem able to get away with literal murder without too many plot consequences.) and earns a few irony points by pitting Curtis “50 cents” Jackson (a rapper with a somewhat spectacular personal history going from teen-hoodlum to respected artist) against Robert de Niro, who can play corrupt cops while half-asleep and still run circles around his co-stars. (Forrest Whittaker also makes a bit of an impression as a seriously corrupt policeman who somehow still ends up a fairly good cop at times.) Freelancers has the advantage of being decent enough to be worth a look on a lazy evening, but it’s not exactly a classic in the making: Training Day and even far more pedestrian fare such as Brooklyn’s Finest have explored this territory far more satisfactorily before, making this film a bit redundant. For a non-American perspective, the film also seems to be taking place in a far more violent and degenerate alternate universe where police corruption is taken as endemic and false equivalencies between police and criminals are a given –in other words, a throwback to the seventies that feels a bit forced today. Fortunately, there is an audience for such tepid crime dramas as Freelancers: people who, like me, don’t mind yet another cop drama given the right circumstances and are always up to see which self-referential role Robert de Niro will now accept.

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