I’m not sure who the target audience is for Freelancers, the latest film to star Curtis Jackson, better known as 50 Cent. There are so many better “corrupt cop” movies that it’s hard to understand why anyone involved in this production thought they were contributing something of value to the subgenre. At least 50 Cent’s other 2012 release, All Things Fall Apart, had a relatively well-defined narrative and tried to make a point. But Freelancers, directed by Jessy Terrero and written by first-time screenwriter L. Philippe Casseus, is a nearly incoherent mess.
It does have a trump card, however. Featured in a supporting role is none other than Robert De Niro. The other heavy hitter in the cast is Forest Whitaker, who won an Oscar for his portrayal of Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland (2006). But as impressive as it is to have Whitaker in the cast, when it comes to impulse rentals or purchases, it’s De Niro who will draw more people in. He plays Vic Sarcone, a dirty cop who runs his division like an organized crime family. This isn’t just a quickie cameo, either. De Niro does have a significant amount of screen time.
Young rookie Malo (50 Cent), a former drug dealer who joined the NYPD to honor his slain cop father, teams with Sarcone and begins to find out some unsettling truths about his father’s death. Dennis LaRue (Whitaker), Sarcone’s right-hand and an incorrigible drug abuser, is tasked with training Malo in the ways of taking a cut from drug dealer profits. Along the way, Malo encounters a gaggle of racist cops (both black and white) but none of it amounts to anything. Red herrings are displayed like badges of honor throughout Terrero’s film.
Despite a bunch of useless tangents, Freelancers boils down to a revenge drama about an unethical young man seeking retribution for his father’s death. But the filmmakers clearly have a fixation on superior dirty cop actioners like Training Day. That 2001 Oscar-winning film may not have been a portrait of plausibility, but it was well made and memorably acted. The same cannot be said about this film, especially with 50 Cent’s unconvincing performance. It’s not that he isn’t without a certain amount of charisma. He just isn’t ready for lead roles at this point. De Niro, for what it’s worth, turns in reliably De Niro-esque tough guy work. As a longtime fan, it brought a smile to my face to see him trying to inject a little life into this dud.
Freelancers comes to Blu-ray with a 1080p transfer that is pretty much beyond reproach. It’s a dark film, literally, and the black levels are deep. Not a very colorful film, moody blues and grays dominate the razor sharp picture. The cinematography by Igor Martinovic is quite high contrast, but the transfer handles the extreme differences between light and dark very well.
The 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio mix will appeal to anyone who likes the various rap artists featured on the soundtrack. With bass throbbing from the LFE channel, the music is well placed around the entire surround spectrum. Dialogue is as intelligible as it can be, considering 50 Cent doesn’t articulate his lines very well. Sound effects such as gunshots and slamming car doors land with a satisfying thump. All in all, the sound quality is as good as the video quality.
There’s a nice selection of bonus features for those who dig this movie enough to want to more. Director Jessy Terrero and 50 Cent contribute a ho-hum commentary track. A standard-issue interview featurette runs about 15 minutes, with even more footage included in an interview gallery. Don’t expect anything from De Niro, he’s nowhere to be seen. Forest Whitaker does turn up, spouting nonsense about what the script meant to him—it’s generic enough that he could’ve been talking about anything. Eleven deleted scenes, totally about 18 minutes, are enough to try anyone’s patience.
While I can’t recommend Freelancers, hardcore fans of 50 Cent or diehard De Niro fans will likely want to check it out. If you don’t happen to fall into either of those categories, watch Training Day. If you’ve already seen Training Day, watch it again before spending 90 minutes with Freelancers.