HK and Cult Film News's Fan Box

Saturday, October 15, 2011

FREERUNNER -- DVD review by porfle

You might call FREERUNNER (2011) the "Running, Jumping, and Definitely Not Standing Still" film.  It may have its ups and downs as a piece of filmmaking, but what it has going for it in spades is an amazing array of breathtaking stunts.

The story involves a guy named Ryan (Sean Faris, PEARL HARBOR, GHOST MACHINE) who partakes in a citywide footrace that's broadcast online for betting purposes.  He and fellow contestants with names like Decks, West, Turk, and Kid Elvis race to collect three flags and cross the finish line first.  Ryan hopes to win the final round in order to move to the ocean with his girlfriend Chelsea (Rebecca Da Costa) and ailing Grandpa (Seymour Cassel) and take up sailing.

What he doesn't know is that billionaire playboy Mr. Frank (Danny Dyer, MALICE IN WONDERLAND) plans to turn the whole thing into a death race for his filthy rich friends to bet on.  Now equipped with non-removable exploding collars, the runners must reach three deactivation scanners in order to keep their heads on their shoulders.  With only thirty minutes to get to the final scanner, the race is now a cutthroat fight for life in which only the winner will survive.

Director Lawrence Silverstein shows that he can handle slower scenes pretty well when Ryan is visiting his feisty Grandpa in the hospital or romancing Chelsea, but as soon as the action starts it's shaky-cam time.  And not the well-done kind of shaky-cam either--it sometimes looks as though all the cameramen are falling-down drunk and the film is being edited by a bunch of hyperactive kids.  A good deal of FREERUNNER's visuals are so marred by pointless kineticism and salad-shooter cutting that it makes QUANTUM OF SOLACE seem like an English drawing room comedy in comparison. 

This is especially unfortunate when one sees the behind-the-scenes footage in which Silverstein has directed much of the action in long takes that are very well choreographed and come off just fine as they are.  A stellar group of stunt performers, including the unbelievably nimble Ryan Doyle who plays Ryan's freerunning nemesis Finch, deliver numerous impressive stunts involving precision jumps, dazzling gymnastics, and some unusual moves such as a front-flip onto a motorcycle. 

More familiar stunts such as freefalls, vehicle crashes, and martial arts fighting are handled expertly as well.  So well, in fact, that you may find the bonus featurettes covering all of this stuff to be more exciting than the movie.

Sean Faris makes an okay hero as Ryan, and Danny Dyer as the smugly sinister Mr. Frank makes a sleazy enough villain.  As Grampa, the venerable Seymour Cassel is a welcome presence, as is Tamer Hassan as Reese, a tough guy who formerly sponsored the race but has been forced into working with Mr. Frank.  The rest of the cast perform pretty much up to speed, especially those doubling as stuntmen.

Casey Durkin adds some humor to the film as online race commentator Stacey, giving the film a bit of a DEATH RACE vibe.  Not so fun are the frequent cutaways to a bunch of billionaire gamers squabbling amongst themselves via their computer monitors, an aspect of the film that isn't nearly as amusing as intended.

The DVD from Image Entertainment is in 2.35:1 widescreen with Dolby 5.1 surround and subtitles in English and Spanish.  In addition to the trailer, bonuses consist of the featurettes "Behind the Scenes, Outtakes, and Bloopers", "Over the Rooftops and Behind the Scenes", "Freerunner Stunts, Fights, and Effects", "Playing Ninja", and "Parkour/Freerunning."  Headed by John Bernecker (Sean Faris' double) and Ryan Doyle, these shorts provide much of the DVD's entertainment value.

Despite the film's uneven technical qualities, FREERUNNER does have a fast pace and some suspenseful sequences.  There isn't nearly as much actual "parkour" as I expected, at least insofar as my understanding of the word goes, but the nonstop stunts are enough to keep the film interesting.  Still, there's a lightweight direct-to-video vibe to the whole thing that keeps it from being what you might call "essential viewing."

Buy it at

No comments: