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Freelancers Blu-ray Disc Review

Freelancers (2012) Blu-ray cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Freelancers

Theatrical Release: August 10, 2012 / Running Time: 97 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Jessy Terrero / Writer: L. Philippe Casseus / Songs List

Cast: Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson (Jonas "Malo" Maldonado), Forest Whitaker (Lieutenant Detective Dennis Lureu), Robert De Niro (Captain Joe Sarcone), Ryan O'Nan (Lucas Ryan), Matt Gerald (Billy Morrison), Beau Garrett (Joey), Malcolm Goodwin (A.D. Valburn), Robert Wisdom (Terrence Burke), Dana Delany (Lydia Vecchio), Vinnie Jones (Sully), Anabelle Acosta (Cyn Ryan), Pedro Armendariz (Gabriel Baez), Michael McGrady (Robert Jude), Andre Royo (Daniel Maldonado), Roger Edwards (Ricky), La'Jessie Janoard Smith (Young Malo), Dominique Duverney (Latin Girl), Cassie Shea Watson (Karlin), Javier Carrasquillo (Uptown Felix), Raeden Greer (White Girl), Craig Leydecker (Flashback Officer), Jeff Chase (Angie), Danny Abeckaser (Louie)

2.40:1 Widescreen, 5.1 DTS-HD MA (English)
Subtitles: English, English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish / Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Blu-ray Release Date: August 21, 2012 / Suggested Retail Price: $24.99
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-50) / Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase
Also available on DVD ($19.98 SRP) and Amazon Instant Video

Buy Freelancers from Amazon.com: Blu-ray DVD Instant Video

The acting career of Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson remains one of Hollywood's great mysteries. How can a man who has appeared in just one film given theatrical release in the past four years continue to headline movies? And not just movies, but movies like Freelancers which casts the rapper across from Academy Award winners Robert De Niro and Forest Whitaker?

It's true that the careers of neither of those decorated actors are at their healthiest. De Niro is conspicuously content to take any paycheck he's offered, from New Year's Eve to Little Fockers.
He and Al Pacino were also accomplices in 50 Cent's last wide theatrical release, the widely and perhaps excessively maligned Righteous Kill. Whitaker's status has also diminished in the years since The Last King of Scotland, resigning him to direct-to-video work.

50 Cent is nothing if not a businessman and in 2010, his production company Cheetah Vision Films inexplicably landed a $200 million, 10-picture deal. Freelancers is the fifth of those pictures, following four that made their debuts on DVD or television. Don't mistake Freelancers for direct-to-video, however. From last Friday to yesterday, the movie enjoyed five showtimes a day in at least one theater in New York and one in Los Angeles. If you're not near one of the industry's two coastal centers or missed the one-week engagement, then you'll only have to wait until Tuesday, August 21st to catch Freelancers on DVD and Blu-ray. So, you see, this is definitely not a direct-to-video film. (Cheetah Vision's sixth movie, Fire with Fire, which only features 50 Cent in a supporting role, was supposedly scheduled to open in theaters at the end of this month, though that clearly isn't happening.)

Jonas "Malo" Maldonado (Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson) is proud to have joined the New York Police Department. Captain Joe Sarcone (Robert De Niro), the former partner of Malo's slain father, extends a chance for some supplemental income.

Freelancers casts 50 Cent as Jonas "Malo" Maldonado, an habitual juvenile offender from Queens who has gotten his life on course and joined the NYPD along with his equally seasoned best friends, Lucas Ryan (Ryan O'Nan) and A.D. Valburn (Malcolm Goodwin). The badge alone doesn't mean Malo is on the straight and narrow. Shortly after being sworn in, he is contacted by Joe Sarcone (De Niro), a powerful police captain who invites Malo under his wing to supplement his $46,000 salary. Sarcone assigns his trusted confidante, Lt. Dennis Lureu (Whitaker) as Malo's FTO (that's cop speak for field training officer, by the way, which Wikipedia, not the film, makes clear).

The morally ambivalent Malo is quick to warm to the corrupt example his coke-snorting superior sets for him. They break rules and behave badly, although Malo draws the line at those who deal drugs to kids.

Meanwhile, in one of the film's numerous threads that go nowhere, Lucas and A.D. are exposed to questionable behavior from their experienced partners, namely in racist attitudes. Crash, this is not, however.

Malo profits from his shady side work, like taking drug dealers' supplies, and continues to build Sarcone's trust. Malo even gets to bring Lucas and A.D. in on the fun.

Everything changes when Malo is informed of Sarcone's history with Malo's father, the undercover detective in whose steps he's following. Suddenly, the rookie cop is choreographing bold moves to play everyone and potentially hand Sarcone over to the DEA.

Malo (50 Cent) and his partner, Lieutenant Dennis Lureu (Forest Whitaker) break into the house of a drug dealer, anticipating danger but hoping to score.

More than in the two earlier movies of his I've had the honor of reviewing, 50 Cent here strikes me as a lacking actor. Though you wouldn't expect it to matter, his flat, half-hearted performance feels like a kid playing bad guy based on what he's seen in movies
and the good-sport grown-ups around him simply playing along for his sake. Rather than elevating or challenging his young lead, De Niro descends to 50 Cent's level in the embarrassing scenes they share. This isn't even De Niro going through motions; it's him completely not caring, presumably making good on a promise he forgot he made.

Clearly, "no" is not something that 50 Cent hears ever. It also appears to be something he never says when someone asks him for a credit on the film. Freelancers bills a staggering nineteen executive producers, plus Jackson and two others as regular producers and still more with other prefixes. All those people aboard and yet no one seems to have any clue what they're doing here. First-time writer L. Philippe Casseus doesn't give them much to work with and director Jessy Terrero seems to have neither concern for letting his powerful star down nor ambition to direct anyone else.

It's not as if that $200 million film deal is play money to 50 Cent and his posse; in April, Forbes assessed the multi-market star's net worth at $110 million, $100 M of that coming from the sale of his stake in Vitaminwater while much of his other earnings have been spent on luxurious living. In light of that, you'd think that he would take his acting seriously (as his dramatic weight loss for All Things Fall Apart suggested) or at least the producing side and make something with even slight commercial prospects. But he's just having fun, acting across from idols and giving himself two love interests, one of those (Beau Garrett) purely for a random gratuitous non-nude sex scene.

Plenty of rich people waste money and time. It's just not often that it then comes to Blu-ray, DVD, and on demand for a gullible few to waste their time and money on.

VIDEO and AUDIO

Blu-ray presents Freelancers in 2.40:1 widescreen and with no glaring evidence of its lack of pedigree. The film has a slightly gritty look to it, with colors sort of washed-out and contrast heightened. The picture quality is great, displaying a fitting slight amount of grain and appropriately ample sharpness, clarity, and detail. The crisp, lively 5.1 DTS-HD master audio is also without issue. Even the musical selections, like Stanley Clarke's flaring rock score, contribute to the film's plentiful cheesiness.

A bruised Cyn (Anabelle Acosta) is disappointed by Malo in this deleted scene. Director Jessy Terrero ("Soul Plane", "Gun") shares his expertise in an audio commentary and this interview.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The Blu-ray's extras begin with an audio commentary by 50 Cent and director Jessy Terrero. 50 speaks of his co-stars with awe and explains what's going on in the film. Terrero tries to be more articulate with his diplomatic views and basic filmmaking information,
touching on things like how New Orleans stood in for Queens. Lulls recur and no joy emerges from the two being overly proud of a plainly bad movie. This is strictly for those who get a thrill out of wasting time.

On the video side, where all extras are presented in HD (but with annoyingly varied volume levels), we begin with eleven deleted scenes (18:35). They include an alternate opening that would have cut down on flashbacks and various inessential confrontations.

"Behind the Scenes with Interviews" (14:30) gathers comments from writer, director, and cast, including Fiddy himself. Some of them reveal things that aren't even apparent from watching the film. It also shares a very few fleeting glimpses of mundane B-roll.

"Extended Interviews" (33:20) serves up more of the sessions from which the featurette's interviews were culled. Speaking at greater length: director Jessy Terrero, Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson, Forest Whitaker, Malcolm Goodwin, Ryan O'Nan, Beau Garrett, Anabelle Acosta, writer L. Philippe Casseus, and producer Randal Emmett.

Ooh, A producer of "Righteous Kill" and other police films? Sign me up! Lucas (Ryan O'Nan) takes aim at the unflappable stars on the Blu-ray's menu screen.

Finally, there is a red band Freelancers trailer (2:32), which shows off some of its rampant profanity and violence.

The disc opens with trailers for The Hunger Games, Haywire, Man on a Ledge, Reservoir Dogs (red band), and EPIX. All of these also play from the menu's "Also from Lionsgate" listing.

The menu shows clips in a narrow opening left by the repositioned, resized version of the cover art's actor shots while a portion of the opening rap "Life in the City" and police sirens are looped. The disc supports bookmarks and also nicely resumes playback. It also includes a DTS-HD master audio sound check. The eco-friendly keepcase isn't joined by any insert or slipcover.

Malo (Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson) acts tough with an NYPD batch hanging from his neck. Malo likes girls, which is reason enough for characters like bartender/John Jay criminal psychology student Joey (Beau Garrett) to exist on the fringes of the film.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

If 50 Cent is making movies for anyone but himself, he's yet to show it. Freelancers adds to his record of trashy crime movies that few will see and far fewer will like. Here, he gets to pull a couple of Oscar winners down to his level. Plagued by juvenile writing and unintentional hilarity, this serves as a welcome reminder that certain films deprived standard theatrical release offer an experience far worse than even the most hackneyed of multiplex fare. Will all these instantly forgotten, evidently unprofitable movies prepare 50 Cent for something great or is his 10-picture deal just a sham chipping away at the fortunes of foolish funders? Time will tell, although the answer seems pretty clear right now.

Lionsgate treats Freelancers to an adequate Blu-ray presentation, but I can't see many people caring to discover that. At your most generous, this is fodder for an aimless late night at Redbox, ideally with a free rental coupon in hand and a sense of humor.

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Related Reviews:
Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson: Gun All Things Fall Apart Morning Glory
Forest Whitaker: The Experiment Platoon Good Morning, Vietnam Vantage Point Phenomenon The Color of Money
Robert De Niro: Stone Jackie Brown Taxi Driver Everybody's Fine Stardust The Godfather Part II
Beau Garrett: Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer Tron: Legacy | Dana Delany: Tombstone
New: Lone Wolf McQuade The Rookies: The Complete Second Season The Royal Tenenbaums Let It Shine
Brooklyn's Finest Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans 21 Jump Street Seeking Justice Scarface

Freelancers Songs List (in order of use): Booke & Swaggalee - "Street Life", Shari & Sophia Brown - "Too Dangerous", Interstate - "Love Freak", Snatch Magnet - "Put It On My Tab", Joe Conte - "Black Magic", Ben Franklin - "Run Ya Mouth", U-Jah - "Buy It", Hoz the Lyricist - "Truth Be Told", Above & Beyond - "Filmic", "Pilas Que Llegamos", P2TheLA - "Thanks", P2TheLA - "Gettin Money", Interstate Feat. Jenny Laszlo - "Won't Forget (IV Legend Remix)", Kingsize - "Sweetheart, I'm Only Stopping to Start", MEA - "The Slip", IV Legend - "King of the Clowns", Brooke, Excel, Cris Emanuel - "I'm On Top", Ben Franklin - "Sideline"

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Reviewed August 17, 2012.



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