Wednesday, September 20, 2017

FREEBIE AND THE BEAN (1974) (WAC Blu-ray Review)


Label: Warner Archive
Region: Region-FREE
Rating: R
Duration: 113 Minutes
Audio: DTS-HD MA Mono 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.40:1) 
Director: Richard Rush 
Cast: James Caan, Alan Arkin, Loretta Swit, Valerie Harper

Freebie and The Bean (1974) is a prototype 70s buddy cop movie starring  Alan Arkin (Wait Until Dark) as Benito “Bean” Vasquez and James Caan (The Godfather) as Freebie Waters, two bumbling San Francisco police detectives who are falling over themselves trying to bring down local racketeer kingpin Red Meyers (Jack Kruschen, The Apartment). They're going through his trash and strong arming small time crooks for any possible leads that might help build their case against Meyers, but in a unexpected twist they discover there's a mob hit on Meyers and they must shadow him to ensure he is not assassinated before they can bring him to proper justice. 

Their antics are cacophonous, racist and sexist, and cause all sort of trouble for their brass, Lt. Rosen (Mike Kellin, Sleepaway Camp), and the local district attorney (Alex Rocco, The Entity), along the way racking up a junkyard of destroyed cop cars, leaving a path of destruction in their wake. The comedy-action comes fast and furious with a ridiculous slapstick motorcycle chase and the detectives car careening off a raised road into a third floor apartment bedroom of an elderly couple, it's ridiculous fun, and we also get quite a bit of verbal and physical sparring between our adversarial detectives. 

Arkin and Caan are fantastic fun together, both are actually unlikable cops and people for the most part, but through sheer presence and chemistry they had me in their corner. Caan's "Freebie" is so nicknamed because his badge seems to be a get-one-free card, rarely paying for food and expensive clothes while Arkin's "The Bean" is a racist slur based on the characters Mexican heritage, though Arkin downplays it, sounding more like a Brooklyn guy than aping a bad accent, with Freebie rarely passing up an opportunity to degrade his partner about his Mexican heritage. 

The whole nab-the-kingpin plot is more a comedy McGuffin than a plot point, it manages to get lost or put on the back burner to a large degree, taking a backseat to the buddy-cop shenanigans of the cops, weaving destruction and chaos throughout San Francisco in a series of non-PC vignettes, including blindly shooting a suspect through a closed bathroom stall door, plowing down the sidewalks at high speeds to the threat of pedestrians, brutalizing innocent suspects with car doors, and plenty of racist and homophobic slurs throughout. The 70s were a less enlightened era, obviously, and watching this with my teen I could tell that his hair was slightly blown back a bit by the non-PC humor, so I can see this ruffling feathers in '74 and now, this won't be for everyone, particularly with a stereotypical 70s killer-queen scenario that plays out at the end.

Keep an eye out for supporting roles from the lovely Loretta Swit (Hot Lips from TVs M*A*S*H*) as the kingpin's wife and Valerie Harper (TV's Mary Tyler Moore Show) as Bean's wife, whom I have had a childhood crush on since I was five, and her presence is welcome. She has a great seen with Arkin in their apartment as she completely unravels his concrete theory about her having an affair, it's a wonderfully warm comedic relationship scene with great timing and delivery. 

The movie is a bit of an uneven mess, a mix of cop-action and non-PC humor, but it has a charm, mainly due to the chemistry of the stars, all credit to Arkin and Caan. The zany rude humor and action scenes make for a rough ride at times, but I liked it. Watching this I was also struck by what appeared to me to be influences on Pulp Fiction, there's a POV from inside a car trunk, and  a scene of Freebie and the Bean forced to wear clothes not their own, looking out of sorts with guns in their hands, I had to think that this was a influence on Tarantino, or maybe I'm just grasping at straws. The film also spawned a short lived, just nine episodes, TV series in '80 starring Hector Elizondo and Tom Mason.    

Audio/Video: Freebie and the Bean (1874) arrives on Blu-ray from WAC with a fresh new 2K scan from the interpositive. The movie is an urban buddy-cop comedy and the images within are gritty and dirty, László Kovács' (Ghostbusters) cinematography captures that in the lensing, this is a sort of dour color scheme, not a lot of bright colors happening. The image is appropriately grainy for a film of the era, particularly during the darker scenes, but it is nicely crisp and detailed, and a nice upgrade from the Warner DVD.

Audio on the disc comes by way of an English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono track, like the action and comedy the audio is cacophonous, dialogue can be occasionally tinny or buried in the mix, this seems by design of the director that any issue with the transfer, mix or disc authoring in my opinion. The lively score from Dominic Frontiere (The Gumball Rally) sounds great and is strong in the mix, optional English subtitles are provided. The only extras on the disc is a remastered trailer for the movie. 

Special Features: 
- Original Theatrical Trailer (Remastered in HD)

Freebie and the Bean (1974) is a non-PC, 70s buddy cop movie, littered with that era's casual racism and homophobic slurs, nutty bumbling cop action and A LOT of steel-crunching car action. The movie certainly pushes the limits of good taste, but Arkin and Caan bring it all together in a way that is good fun. The new Blu-ray from WAC is is a nice A/V upgrade, making this a worthy purchase for both fans and newcomers.