4 out of 10
Release Date: 1st February 2008
Director: John Ivay
Cast: Gary Stretch, Geoff Bell, Phil Daniels, Huggy Leaver, Martin Serene, Laila Rouass with Eddie Webber and Peter Bowles
Writer: John Ivay
Review by Joe Pesci II aka Matt Usher
They should show FREEBIRD in schools. One viewing of this garbage at an impressionable age will surely be enough to put kids off drugs for the rest of their lives. But this is not Just Say No propaganda, it is, well, I’m not sure what it is. I think it’s meant to be a comedy for middle-aged men who think they’re still likely lads at heart. And I suspect that the target audience might well find stuff to enjoy here, if their standards are particularly low. But it is quite incredibly, monumentally boring, and about as funny as having your dog put down.
Gary Stretch stars (always a bad sign) as Fred who seems to work for Peter Bowles (turning up to collect his cheque and nothing more) who seems to be some sort of drug boss. Stretch has to go somewhere and make a deal, so he decides to turn the whole thing into a little holiday with his pals Geoff Bell (doing his quite threatening thing) and Phil Daniels (attempting zany). All three are bikers, so off they bike to the depths of the countryside, unaware that they are stumbling into some sort of turf war between two equally hopeless and hapless pretend armies of rival bikers. And there’s a murderer lurking somewhere in the undergrowth. The film follows our dozy stoned trio as they embroil themselves in hilarious larks, most of which seem to involve sitting about in a field. Sometimes they go into shops and pubs and buy stuff and giggle. Occasionally they open their hearts and we find that they have stereotypical worries that the writer took out of the stock of middle-aged male dilemmas: girlfriend or bike? Family or bike? Drugs or bike?
The plot (what there is of it) resolves itself in a scene which is stunning. You won’t realise it’s stunning though unless you really think about it. Here it is, so SPOILER ALERT. The film had opened with a flash-forward to a shot of our heroes in an unspecified pickle. An hour and a half (though it feels like a month) later we see what the pickle is. They’re about to be marmalised by a small gathering of grumpy bikers. So our hero goes out to chat with their leader. And he agrees to let them go, as simple as that. And off they go. The end. True, there’s a bit of a fracas involving the other bikers, but that’s it for our heroes. This is a revolutionary ending. Maybe Hollywood could adopt this ‘Sorry to disturb you, we’ll just be on our way’ type of ending. Who needs all those explosions and the villain dying twice? FREEBIRD is at least consistent in finishing the film as noncommittally as it started. Oh, and the lurking murderer has a perfectly innocent explanation too, not that the film ever puts any significant character in threat anyway.
There is a sense that a lot of the comedy set pieces are things that happened, or are stories that the writer/director has heard. Sadly they lose everything in translation to screen. He’s not helped by a cast which he fails to inspire to go beyond autopilot. Between them Stretch, Bell and Daniels muster perhaps two different facial expressions (bemusement and amusement). Horrifyingly the DVD contains a whole second disc of behind the scenes extras – I shall never watch it, but the mind boggles as to its contents. This is probably one of those films which they really enjoyed making. And it may well be a great film for drug-addled bikers to enjoy. Otherwise, just say no.
WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?
- Gary Stretch: Savages (2012), Baseline, Mega Shark vs Crocosaurus, The Heavy, Alexander, Dead Man’s Shoes, Final Combination
- Geoff Bell: Suffragette, Comedown, Comes a Bright Day, Storage 24, The Reeds, War Horse, Brighton Rock (2011), Big Fat Gypsy Gangster, Route Irish, Solomon Kane, Mercenaries, Just For The Record, Wild Target (2010), The Heavy, Botched, Love Me Still, Tormented, Green Street, The Business, Mean Machine
- Phil Daniels: Vinyl, Eastenders (TV), Outlaws (TV), Goodbye Charlie Bright, Nasty Neighbours, Chicken Run (voice), Bad Behaviour, Billy The Kid and Green Baize Vampire, Meantime, Scum, Zulu Dawn, Quadrophenia
- Huggy Leaver: Gangster Guns and Zombies, Somers Town, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels
- Laila Rouass: Holby City (TV), Spooks (TV), Primeval (TV), Shoot On Sight, Footballers’ Wives
- Eddie Webber: Assassin (2014), Fall Of The Essex Boys, Big Fat Gypsy Gangster, The Firm (2009), The Business
- Peter Bowles: Love’s Kitchen, The Bank Job, To The Manor Born (TV), The Steal, Rumpole Of The Bailey (TV), Only When I Laugh (TV), Blow Up