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Freerunner (2011)

March 24, 2012

MY CALL:  This was probably meant to be a high octane action flick.  What we got was a BIC lighter that is running out of fuel.  There’s enough to spark my entertainment, but it doesn’t go very far.  [C/C+]  IF YOU LIKE THIS, WATCH:  Any of the Step Up series (2006-2012), You Got Served (2004; but not Beat the World), Death Race (2008, 2010), and The Condemned (2007) all do a better job of executing acrobatic competition or web-aired death match elements.  Give them a shot especially if you did not like Freerunner.

This movie about parkour stars Sean Faris.  Faris has an unfortunate film career recently including The King of Fighters (2010).  His highest point to date was in Never Back Down (2008; featured in the Cam Gigandet Actor Spotlight).

This freerunning-flick follows the subculture of capture-the-flag racing competitors who operate under the radar of the law for winner-take-all paydays.  They essentially freerun around the city, gather three flags, and hit the finish line for victory.  However, there aren’t really any rules, so the occasional skirmish occurs.  The competitiveness, the older guy who runs the show, and the taunts between freerunners make this feel like a parkour-esque Step Up or You Got Served.  There’s the underdog star, his overprotective love interest, his crappy job, his loving grandparent, and the badass-asshole reigning champ…it’s a cookie-cutter plot.  Our hero bets all he has on himself for one last race so that he, his girl and his grandfather can move out of the city and be happy.  This attempt to follow the dance-movie formula fails to maintain my interest.  But that’s just the first chunk of the flick.  It gets better.

In the middle of this big race all of the freerunners are captured by some enterprising villain who does exactly what they were already doing—he airs a high betting stakes parkour race for rich people to place bets.  The catch is that they have 60 minutes to finish the race and they all have been fitted with explosive collars which turn their heads into party-poppers after those 60 minutes are up.  There are some other rules to follow to avoid death as well.  So they must literally race as if their lives depended on it.  It’s very Death Race meets The Condemned in terms of how their captor manages his web-based betting operation.  Additionally, for no reason whatsoever, their captor offers one million dollars to the winner.  Isn’t racing for your life enough?  Maybe the writers just needed to keep the possibility of a happy ending for our protagonist.

This is is no way a rip-off of the Rutger Hauer movie “DeadLock.”

As a funny bit of added flavor and rather contrary to Death Race and The Condemned, their enterprising captor is a lot like a book club party host.  It’s “his turn” to host.  Next time, one of the others would be in charge of choosing the type of game and the unwilling participants.  The club members, along with most of the delivery of this movie, are all very hokey.  But it’s all in good fun and it’s rather entertaining.  Really.

The biggest problem with this flick (ignoring the writing and acting) is that following freerunners is difficult, so there is a lot of shaky camera work and FPS-style head-cam shots.  The stunts are cool, but would be more enjoyable with steadier filming.  More solid examples of parkour in film (in order of increasing awesomeness) include Scott Adkins in The Tournament (2009), the French guy from Live Free or Die Hard (2007), and the epic opening chase scene in District B-13 (2004).  Let’s also not forget that basically every Jackie Chan movie doubles as a freerunning movie.  And Jackie has the best resume in the business.  But I digress.

Freerunner is a bit of mindless fun for a Sunday afternoon.  Just expect nothing–certainly nothing very good–and tell yourself this was not meant to be taken seriously.

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