Watching Freelance inspires an interesting question: Why did anybody want to make this movie? The formula relied upon here has been around forever. A macho tough guy and a sexy, saucy woman get plopped into a foreign locale where they have life-threatening adventures. From Romancing the Stone to Shotgun Wedding, this is an idea we’ve seen countless times before. I could understand hauling it back out if there was a cool new twist to put in place. Freelance doesn’t have one. It just reassembles familiar bits in a lazy manner. What was the point?

Mason Pettits (John Cena) is a former Special Forces soldier who got injured on a mission that left several colleagues dead. He’s profoundly unhappy working as a lawyer, is separated from his wife (Alice Eve), and feels bored by the domestic lifestyle. Old pal Sebastian (Christian Slater) offers him a one-time job providing security to Claire Wellington (Alison Brie), a journalist traveling to a South American country to interview its dictator, President Juan Venegas (Juan Pablo Raba). He accepts, believing it a good chance to revitalize himself. Almost immediately after they arrive, a coup occurs, putting their lives in danger.

You can more or less predict how Freelance goes from here. Mason gets to use his lethal skills while Claire stands behind him being all screamy. There’s the requisite scene where the two accidentally see each other naked, plus the usual bickering that eventually gives way to fondness. Venegas, of course, is a colorful dictator, and we’re supposed to laugh at the cavalier attitude he has toward the fact that people want to kill him. The only semi-original element in the plot is that Venegas is apparently responsible for the accident that killed Mason’s fellow soldiers, so the possibility exists that he’ll murder the dictator himself.

Cena and Brie are massively appealing performers who look good together onscreen. They’re clearly trying to pump life into this thing. The stuff they’re asked to do is just so routine that becoming invested in it is virtually impossible. Mason and Claire run through the jungle, get shot at by a helicopter, traverse a river, etc. The only cliché they don’t engage in is jumping off a cliff to escape armed bad guys. Director Pierre Morel (Taken) can’t make any of the action exciting because what occurs is boilerplate.

Screenwriter Jacob Lentz is a former staff writer for Jimmy Kimmel Live!, which is why it’s surprising that the script lacks wit. The characters don’t say funny things, and the situations they find themselves in are not especially humorous. That leaves the Cena/Brie chemistry to do the heavy lifting. Nothing against the stars, but when they have such weak material, they can only carry it to a point.

Despite the likeable lead actors, Freelance is an instantly forgettable movie.

out of four

Freelance is rated R for violence and language. The running time is 1 hour and 49 minutes.