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Buddy cops James Caan and Alan Arkin destroy vehicles and trade insults in an action comedy that's as entertaining as it is un-PC
Those old enough to remember a time called the 1970s may also recall that, way back then, it was considered perfectly alright to poke fun at minority groups. Black people, homosexuals, women - all were fair game when it came to comedy.
1974's Freebie And The Bean is rife with racism, homophobia and sexism. That it entertains rather than appalls is down to James Caan and Alan Arkin's brilliant badinage which, together with some excellent action sequences, ensure director Richard Rush's movie gets away with its detours into bad taste.
Caan and Arkin are, respectively, Freebie and the Bean, two San Francisco cops with penchants for killing innocent bystanders, causing fatal car-crashes and threatening their wives. When not flouting the law, they dedicate themselves to bringing down Red Meyers (Kruschen), a gangster they've been tailing for months.
Freebie And The Bean's plot actually feels like something of an after thought - the producers were clearly more concerned with packing their picture with action and laughs than ensuring that it made much sense. The leads' sublime showboating makes the storyline seem less important still. Anyone who's seen So I Married An Axe Murderer or Grosse Point Blank will be aware of Arkin's comedic gifts. Perennial tough guy Caan is also just as comfortable dishing out one-liners as he is throwing right-crosses. When the dynamic duo are in full swing, it's hard for anyone else to keep up, but Valerie Harper deserves kudos for her turn as Bean's cheating wife, as does M*A*S*H's Loretta Swit for her work as Meyers' old lady.
The veteran of biker movies such as Hells Angels On Wheels and The Savage Seven, Richard Rush is well-qualified to choreograph the action scenes. That he handles Caan and Arkin's sparring sessions with equal aplomb makes it all the sadder that in the decades since Freebie And The Bean came out, he's only directed two further movies.
Rush's movie can be enjoyed as kitsch, but it plays better as an early stab at a Lethal Weapon-style movie, effortlessly combining violence and humour.
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