Freebie and the Bean (1974) Blu-ray Review: How Can Something So Wrong Feel So Right?

A classic example of “How can something so wrong feel so right?”, Richard Rush’s classic 1974 action-comedy starring James Caan and Alan Arkin is a delightful politically-incorrect romp through the streets of San Francisco. The granddaddy of the buddy cop genre most of us have grown to despise today, Freebie and the Bean focuses on the outrageous antics of two rogue SFPD detectives, whom we only ever know by their eponymous nicknames: Caan plays the openly corrupt “Freebie,” while Arkin ‒ an actor of Jewish heritage, mind you ‒ plays a Mexican-American everyone calls “Bean.” And who is also married to his unfaithful Hispanic wife, as played by (wait for it) Valerie Harper!

Look, it was the ’70s, all right? Plus, it’s a comedy we’re not supposed to take seriously, so just take it easy, Social Justice Warriors.

When they’re not endangering their own lives, Freebie and the Bean are busy trying to end someone else’s. In this case, they’ve been on the tail of crime boss Jack Kruschen (honestly, one cannot get enough of Jack Kruschen), having dug through his trash for the last 14 months in search of something ‒ anything ‒ that could help put the rest of (human) garbage away. But that all changes once a would-be assassin comes to town, who is also after the kingpin. Chases, endless bickering, transvestites, stereotypes, and Rush’s one-of-a-kind storytelling embody this incredible comedy from the days when filmmakers weren’t afraid to make a racial joke and took great a tremendous amount of pride demolishing tuna boat cars.

Also starring in this time capsule from the ’70s (which spawned a short-lived TV series) are Loretta Swit, Alex Rocco, Mike Kellin, Paul Koslo, and Christopher Morley. Screenwriter Robert Kaufman also penned the Dr. Goldfoot films and Love at First Bite. László Kovács provided the beautiful cinematography, and Dominic Frontiere (The Outer Limits) composed the score. The Warner Archive Blu-ray’s transfer for this release is nothing short of perfect, presenting the film in its original 2.40:1 aspect ratio with a lossless DTS-MA HD 2.0 Mono soundtrack. English (SDH) subtitles accompany the feature, and the film’s theatrical trailer is included as an extra.

Highly Recommended.

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Luigi Bastardo

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