just the other day i was thinking to myself “hey playingthedevil (which is what i call myself), you haven’t watch any asylum movies in a while, almost a year since battle: los angeles, fast five, and thor came out and you watched battle OF los angeles, 200 mph and almighty thor. i kept that in mind and reasoned that though i didn’t hate those movies, it’s getting harder and harder for me to sit through asylum movies by myself. so i went and looked up some new asylum movies and added 2 headed shark attack to my netflix instant queue. serendipitously, when i checked my netflix instant queue, freerunner was automatically added at the end of the queue. i seem to remember the movie coming out late 2011, it was a limited release at best, and probably with vod around the same time and then dumped onto dvd a month later, which is what they are doing now with low budget b movies. sometimes they even have big names like nicolas cage (trespass 2011) or BRUCE willis (set up/setup, catch .44).
all i remembered about freerunner is that it received a couple negative reviews  , and a trailer that, as pro-parkour as i am, indicated that i should stay away. but it is nevertheless a 2011 movie involving parkour and so here we are. freerunner is an amateur low budget movie utilizing parkour, or free running to be precise. it’s what happens if the asylum decided to make a parkour action movie, or if a bunch of kids just found out about parkour and decided to make a movie about it. it feels almost like that episode of the office where michael, dwight, and andy found out about parkour on youtube and decided to film themselves doing it. the movie also turned into something similar to gamer, or the running man, or battle royale…etc. i am in the minority in regards to gamer, and even if i didn’t like gamer, i would still say that freerunner makes gamer (and the crank movies) look like well thought out popcorn entertainment.
it begins ominously with a credit sequence that looks like those 90s pre-youtube skateboarding videos directed by tony scott, with shaky cam, pov shots and freeze frames in toll. on second thought that may not be a fair comparison since those skateboarding videos since from what i remember, those videos always allow you to see a whole sequence from beginning to end. most of the action in freerunner consists of someone jumping, then a pov shot or a close up of some kind, and than the landing. there may be two or three action scenes in the whole movie that can be qualify as sequence.
model/actor sean faris from never back down and the king of fighters stars (and also executive produces) as ryan, one of the freerunners who’s in the race in the beginning. take away the free running/parkour, it’s essentially a game of capture the flag, except with three flags, and even if someone took the flag, you can still beat them up and take what’s not yours. so it’s not so much about speed but also how well you fight. he has a day job as a janitor at a hospital, which coincidentally his grandfather (seymour cassel!) stays in (and you thought saturday night live movies are the only ones exploiting the doing-it-for-the-grandma/pa element). to complete the puzzle, ryan has an ethnic girlfriend, played by not michelle rodriguez but rebecca da costa. of course, she has a stepbrother who’s a hacker, who’s probably next in line if any of the big bang theory actors die. of course he hangs out at a cybercafe so that he can easily be found by our hero. of course he’s hit on by a goth chick (chick spell with a y). of course, the goth chyck makes her living through webcam. of course she’s there not only as a love interest but also comes in handy when the hero and the hacker need to sneak into a building.
after the opening race and a half hour of painful exposition, things start to look up just a tad when the freerunners are kidnapped and drugged, with exploding collars around their necks, and are forced to play a death game where the winner gets to live and everyone else will die. no steak knives for second place in this race. the mastermind behind this death race, of course, is british. it’s another given that he is simply known as mr. frank (danny dyer from doghouse, human traffic, video games’ grand theft auto) and his exclusive wealthy friends who are betting on this game of death.
so it’s ultimately a bust for anyone going in expecting an action movie, as the film is supposed to be. it was apparently shot in 15 days with a pretty low budget. but such restraint doesn’t necessarily prevents one from making a good action movie. even if none of the actors are martial artists, a decent action movie is still possible. the way the movie is shot and looks, i was thinking maybe it was shot on digital cameras but turns out it was shot with arriflix 16mm cameras. is it supposed to be more exciting that the camera is shaking and cutting all the time? though they come up with a pretty good excuse, the first person point of view hinders, rather than helps the movie during the action scenes. the grainy quality (and the casual nudity and gore) reminds me of the 80s low budget action movies but the way it is shot canceled that effect. it’s like one of those retrofitted grindhouse movies. except in this case it’s a retrofitted 80s d-t-v action movie shot by someone who’s had a lot of mountain dew and crack, updated for the video game generation.
they also try their hardest in making the movie interactive, like a video game, except in gamer, they did it because it’s a movie about video games. here, not only is it unrelated to the premise, it feels more like they try to make you excited by throwing everything at you and hope that something works and forget its shortcomings.
there is also the old embarrassment scene where the hero tries to buy -insert personal product-, condoms in this case, and at the checkout counter and the scanner doesn’t work so the cashier has to use the p.a. system to do a price check so the whole store can hear and turn to look at our hero trying to buy condoms. i don’t really see what’s funny about a grown man with a girl buying condoms. unless i missed the part where the movie takes place in a romney-ized future. this becomes a plot point later on but it’s done as half-assy as most things in the movie: it takes quite a few leaps of logic to work this into the main plot of the movie that it feels forced; and though he fails to purchase said item, condoms in this case, the hero and his girlfriend end up having sex anyway.
there’s also the action movie cliche during the climax of the movie with the action hero saying a line that tip of his girlfriend/partner who’s taken hostage. it works in movies like in the line of fire but here, there’s no buildup, other than the fact that the hero needs to save his girlfriend and it’s baffling that the villain couldn’t crack their secret code.
and even if you’re making an action movie on a tight schedule and no money, there are still things you can do to prevent your movie from being laughable. with no less than six screenwriters in the credit, there are some pretty horrific expositions during the first half hour. we’re talking about tommy wisseau level here.
in explaining the game, we have one of the villain’ girlfriend saying “i still don’t get it” followed by said villain saying “okay, i’m going to explain it one last time.” the next scene has the main villain saying to the above sub-villain “you used to be one of the best, and now you work for me.” there is no need for such conversation to take place, other than for the benefit of the audience. at no point were we led to believe that any characters suffer from memory loss. as if that’s not clear enough, we also get a voice over narration from ryan just in case you’re not “smart” enough to figure out the plot. these voice-overs are inserted so awkwardly that the second and last time it happens, it not only hammers you over your head but also interrupts the dialogues.
there is also the character of stacy (casey durkin), who at first seems like a computer program that the lead villain created to explain the game. there is simply no need for her to appear as frequently as she does, especially since she already got naked in her first appearance. there is also no need to show the bettors over and over again. i guess they are supposed to be funny, we simply don’t care about them, and they interrupt the flow of the movie.
in addition to the running man, battle royale, series 7: the contenders, gamer, and countless other “game” movies and “the most dangerous game” adaptations, the first half hour feels like the non-action parts in the fast and furious movies. the various names of the freerunners make them feel like a less glamorous group of hackers, from the movie hackers. i don’t know if it’s the performance but as quite a few other writers mentioned, it helps that faris looks like a hybrid of matthew fox and tom cruise. there are a couple of scenes that reminds me of the firm and your typical tom cruise movies. it can’t be coincident that someone asks him “do i make myself clear?” and faris answers “crystal.” there’s even a hospital bedside scene with is grandfather. he never tamed any vaginas though. at least not on screen.
there are apparently differences between free running and parkour. the main difference seems to be that parkour is focused more on speed and efficiency while free running is more about fanciful moves and showing off tricks. it is the same difference between freerunner and the district 13 movies.
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