Thursday, June 4, 2009

Freebie and the Bean (1974)

Directed by Richard Rush. This is pretty much the Rosetta Stone of buddy-cop comic action dramas and there must be some very specific reason it is not available on DVD, but I don't know what it is. I had hoped to learn the reason when an interview with director Richard Rush turned up in a recent issue of Shock Cinema magazine, but that didn't come up.

What did come up was that -- according to Rush -- James Caan and Alan Arkin were complete primadonna assholes who refused to get along during much of the film's making. The reason that's so interesting is that the only thing that makes this flick work is what is apparently the illusion of tremendous chemistry between its two stars.

There's not a hell of a lot of plot and the script is hardly meaty. But the delivery between Caan and Arkin is awesome. It's fast and sharp. Everything here depends on character. The story takes place in a dirty contemporary San Francisco where a corrupt police force is an accepted assumption and not particularly frowned upon. Caan's "Freebie" wants only to increase his piece of the action by graduating to the vice squad. Arkin's "Bean" is an Hispanic (Robert Heyges may or may not have been an alternate choice for the role) family man who, despite his skills as a cop and detective, is unable to confirm whether his wife is cheating on him.

As part of their work day, Freebie and Bean are quite comfortable beating information out of people, shooting through and driving over bystanders, and ignoring due process rights. Also, this movie is from 1974, so homosexuals are portrayed as mincing freaks incapable of socialization.

But Caan and Arkin are remarkable and that's why this is worth seeking out.

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