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FREEBIE AND THE BEAN (1974) *** ½

Freebie and the Bean is a messy, wild, freewheeling, sloppy, uneven, thrilling, ramshackle, and just plain fun prototypical buddy cop movie. James Caan and Alan Arkin star as bickering partners who play jokes on each other and make fun of each other’s ethnicities. They work together surprisingly well considering that they can barely tolerate each other.

Along the way they get into some amazing car chases, pile-ups, and car crashes. The scene where their car goes flying off the freeway and into the third story of apartment building is as good as anything in a Smokey and the Bandit movie. If that isn’t high praise, I don’t know what is.

I guess that’s to be expected since it was directed by Richard Rush, who also did the cult classic, The Stunt Man. There is some crazy stuff in this movie. There’s a car crash scene that probably inspired John Landis to make The Blues Brothers. We also get a scene that can only be described as a fist fight, but with a car and a van. Speaking of which, Rush also goes all-in on the fight scenes. I mean why stage a fight in a kitchen unless you’re going to destroy EVERYTHING in the kitchen.

It’s not always successful, but the spirit of unbridled anarchy that runs throughout the film is truly inspired. Another cool thing is that the plot unfolds mostly out of dialogue and the characters’ interactions instead of rote plot points and genre convention. It also helps that the two leads have a lot of chemistry together. It’s easy to forget how funny Caan can be when given comedic roles. It’s a shame he and Arkiin didn’t make an entire franchise out of this.

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