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JAMES CAAN AND ALAN ARKIN ARE 'FREEBIE AND THE BEAN'

Alan Arkin and James Caan in FREEBIE AND THE BEAN Year: 1974 Rating: ***1/2

FREEBIE AND THE BEAN was very popular upon release, which is understandable. Unlike other movies directed by Richard Rush, these characters are likable right from the start: Two cops that make for an odd couple in James Caan's reckless Freebie and a more patient yet equally spontaneous Bean, referring to a derogatory Mexican nickname — this sure isn't PC... At one point, Caan is described by BEAN's famously glib actor Alan Arkin as an "Archie Bunker," the 70's term for funny racist...

Despite these spitfire insults and fast-paced comebacks, it's obvious Freebie and Bean are very close. Maybe too much since the audience never really learns about the guys before both explode with perpetual arguments, tirades, monologues...

Alan Arkin and James Caan in FREEBIE AND THE BEAN

Like an old married couple's screaming (more than even Alan Arkin and his sexy cheating wife played by Valerie Harper) heard from the apartment next door, most of the picture has that edgy element up-close, but never too personal...

And the bad guys they beat up or bully aren't known for how bad they are for their punishment to be rooted for. Yet despite all the frantic running around, the quirky undercover recreants don't beat around the bush when it comes to their mission...

Alan Arkin and James Caan in FREEBIE AND THE BEAN

While THE FRENCH CONNECTION — then the gold standard for partnered-up cop films — provided a rudimentary glimpse into how the detectives work, separate from the mainline plot,  FREEBIE (that has almost the same exact plot of another buddy-cop-riling-a-fat-mafioso flick BUSTING the same year) begins like watching a TV show's first episode after having missed the pilot, or as if you'd walked into the theater fifteen-minutes late...

Our timid staked-out anti-heroes watching an alley cat invade a trashcan full of (what we soon learn are) possible clues. And yet the plot, to bust a fancy, upper-class crime boss while at the same time protecting him from hit men, takes backseat to the shenanigans derived from behind the wheel...

Alan Arkin and James Caan in FREEBIE AND THE BEAN

From chases and wrecks (in both cars and a motorcycle), fist fights, palpable threats (Paul Koslo forcefully shown the edge of a high-rise construction site) and various other hijinks that turn New York City on its ass — with all the testosterone pumping gusto, super-skinny, weak-looking transvestite Christopher Morley provide the duo with their biggest challenge...

Some of the comedic frenzy is hit or miss but there's enough purpose and reason to make each demolished location more than just a result from the ongoing gratuitous bedlam: But there's a lot that too, and not without a price...

James Caan in FREEBIE AND THE BEAN

A disgruntled Caan and Arkin didn't promote the picture, both having desired more dialogue than disaster from their action-paced director. Pretty lame since there's enough rambling for ten buddy-cop flicks here...

Meanwhile, Richard Rush followed this up with his true masterpiece, THE STUNT MAN — ironic since FREEBIE AND THE BEAN uses a whole lot of them. But the intrepid, underappreciated though not underpaid phantom heroes (especially Charles Bail, who's in both films) would have to wait six-years to get their due... In a flawed masterpiece where the actors loved Mr. Rush. 

James Caan in FREEBIE AND THE BEAN
Alan Arkin in FREEBIE AND THE BEAN
Valerie Harper as Bean's Wife in FREEBIE AND THE BEAN
Alan Arkin and James Caan in FREEBIE AND THE BEAN with Paul Koslo
James Caan gives Paul Koslo a knuckle-sandwich in FREEBIE AND THE BEAN
Alan Arkin, Paul Koslo and James Caan in FREEBIE AND THE BEAN
James Caan, Paul Koslo and Alan Arkin in FREEBIE AND THE BEAN (and Whitey)

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