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Richard Rush
James Caan, Alan Arkin, Loretta Swit, Valerie Harper, Alex Rocco
Writing Credits:
Robert Kaufman

San Francisco police detectives Freebie and Bean are determined to bust local crime boss Red Meyers at any cost, even if this means destroying the whole city in the process.

Rated R.

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
English DTS-HD MA Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 113 min.
Price: $21.99
Release Date: 8/8/2017

• Trailer


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Freebie and the Bean [Blu-Ray] (1974)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 22, 2017)

A cop flick with a comedic bent, 1974’s Freebie and the Bean takes us to San Francisco. There we meet two local police detectives: Freebie (James Caan) and Bean (Alan Arkin).

The loose-cannon Freebie and the neurotic Bean make an odd couple, but they work well together, and they share one main goal. Both desire the same outcome: the downfall of local crime boss Red Meyers (Jack Kruschen). They work toward this aim and deal with a mix of complications along the way.

I recently watched 1979’s The In-Laws, an Arkin effort that began life as a potential Freebie sequel. Obviously the filmmakers went a different way, but one can see parallels between Arkin’s characters in both.

Because I liked In-Laws a lot, this connection – however tangential – created elevated expectations for Freebie. Does it compare well to the hilarious In-Laws?

No – God no! Freebie stands in gross opposition to the smart, clever In-Laws, as it gives us a consistently crass, ugly affair.

Granted, some of the movie’s flaws come from attitudes of its era. Freebie offers a relentlessly “non-PC” tale, one in which bigoted epithets fly and no one ever displays dismay about this.

Freebie also posits its leads as the dirtiest of dirty cops – and wants us to be okay with that. Freebie is a racist who extorts bystanders and acts in reckless, violent ways – and apparently this is supposed to endear him to us.

Bean isn’t as awful as Freebie, but he’s not that much better, either, especially when the film subjects us to a painfully long – and pointless – sequence in which Bean interrogates his wife due to infidelity suspicions. Freebie and Bean are peas in an angry, brutal pod.

Freebie pushes to such extremes that I occasionally wondered if the filmmakers intended it as some kind of counterculture commentary on the police. Our leads are reckless, arrogant and violent, and they offer more of a threat to the public than the criminals – this must be a parody, right?

Heck, it’s never even clear what threat Meyers presents. The movie focuses on all the mayhem Freebie and Bean create in their pursuit so it comes across like an indication that sometimes the cure is worse than the disease.

If Freebie does aim to spoof the “obsessed vigilante cop” genre, it does so in an unconvincing manner, and it leaves the impression we’re supposed to genuinely embrace the leads. I don’t, and I find little here to entertain.

Which becomes more of a shock given the actors involved. I like Caan and Arkin, but they lack chemistry, as their contrasting personalities grate more than anything else. I guess we’re supposed to find their bickering amusing in an Oscar and Felix way, but it’s closer to nails on a chalkboard.

All of this leaves Freebie and the Bean as a substantial disappointment. I expected a clever, witty comedy with action overtones but ended up with a crass, mean-spirited piece of nonsense.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B/ Audio C-/ Bonus D-

Freebie and the Bean appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Though not great, the image seemed satisfactory.

Sharpness appeared generally solid. Some softness cropped up at times, mainly in wider shots, and the movie could look a bit dated. Still, most of the film showed pretty positive delineation.

I saw no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, and edge enhancement remained absent. I detected no print flaws or use of digital noise reduction.

Colors tended to show their age, as they displayed somewhat murky tones. Still, that stemmed more from the source than the reproduction.

Blacks were appropriately firm and dense, and low-light shots demonstrated good delineation and accuracy. This was a largely positive image given the film’s age and origins.

As for the film’s DTS-HD MA monaural soundtrack, Dominic Frontiere’s score became the most successful component. The music showed reasonable life and vivacity, so it turned into the best aspect of the track.

Unfortunately, the rest of the mix seemed more problematic. Effects were decent but dated; they sounded clear enough but lacked much range, and distortion occasionally marred these elements.

Dialogue showed a somewhat brittle feel and I heard a lot of edginess, factors that turned into a consistent problem. While the rest of the track seemed decent to good, the often poor reproduction of speech left this as a “C-“ mix.

The disc includes the film’s trailer but it lacks any other extras.

While I try not to judge a film by modern standards, in the case of Freebie and the Bean, I can’t embrace my memories of 1974 enough to compensate for its multiple flaws. Mean-spirited and unfunny, the movie gives us one ugly episode after another with little redeeming value. The Blu-ray presents acceptable picture but comes with below-average audio and almost no supplements. Despite the talent involved, Freebie flops.

Viewer Film Ratings: 1 Stars Number of Votes: 2
0 3:
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