Not everyone can see a movie or TV show when it first releases. Sometimes, it takes years before you get around to watching something. There could be unknown, Indie films you had no idea originally existed. That’s where Throwback Thursday comes in. This week’s post is about the 2016 Jason Lew film The Free World.
Typically, when I become a fan of an actor or actress, I like to take a look at their past work. I’ve seen a lot of great movies because due to this method. The Accountant was one of the best movies I saw in 2016 and I would not have gone to see it if Jon Bernthal wasn’t in it. Due to Narcos and Logan, I’ve become a fan of Boyd Holbrook and have done the same kind of “research”.
Boyd Holbrook is an actor-turned-model, but I wouldn’t let that dissuade you. Holbrook’s portrayal as villain Donald Pierce in Logan was flawless and he is top notch as Steve Murphy in Narcos. I’d also recommend other Indie movies such as Little Accidents and Cardboard Boxer. Even his role as Cap Hatfield in the History Channel’s Hatfields & McCoys mini-series was enjoyable.
The Free World must have been the in between movie for Holbrook, before Logan. I do not say this with slanderous intent, but Holbrook is a skinny guy. Normally. In Logan, we see a beefed up Boyd and I believe I read he put on thirty pounds for that role. He isn’t as cut in The Free World as he is in Logan, which is normal for anyone looking to beef up and gain muscle.
For all intensive purposes, The Free World has a good plot. Boyd Holbrook plays Mo Lundy, a man released from prison after a twenty-year sentence for a crime he did not commit. After years of misbehaving while locked up, Martin becomes Mohammed after converting to Islam. He works at a dog shelter with Linda (Octavia Spencer) and lives simply.
Doris (Elizabeth Moss, Mad Men) is the wife of a highly abusive husband, who happens to be a cop. Mo and Doris first meet when the couple dropped off their dying dog, which was caused by the husband. Next, Mo goes to his job about a day later to see Doris bloody and upset and searching for her dog.
In the beginning, it seems like Mo wants nothing to do with Doris. Considering he spent the past two decades imprisoned for a crime involving women, being seen with a bloody and battered wife of a cop would have been bad. Still, he takes her home so she can recover and ends up housing a now wanted fugitive.
Let me begin with my critique of the film. I think Boyd Holbrook is incredibly talented, so I do think it was the character and dialogue that was Mo Lundy’s downfall. Doris and Mo barely spend a day together, before it seems the two of them are prepared to face the world together. It could be that Mo is probably the only man to ever be kind to her and that Mo has spent twenty years in prison, so he too is desperate for love. Still, it is too intense too soon.
For a man who seems to want nothing to do with Doris at first, due to the risk of being incarcerated again; Mo is extremely willing to risk everything. Not only does he steal a car, but he enlists a former jailmate to help the two cross into Mexico. This thus makes him also a fugitive. You know this will not end well.
Boyd also looks awkward in his role. There are a few times he’s standing next to Spencer’s character and it looks like he is not entirely comfortable in his skin. I’m not sure if maybe he was getting used to his new body or didn’t enjoy his character. But, it wasn’t exactly great to watch and I didn’t think the chemistry between him and the talented Elizabeth Moss was there.
I’m also pretty cynical towards the trope of risking everything for a person you just met. I get it for Doris. After killing her husband, she doesn’t have any other options but to go along with anything that’s going to prevent her from going to jail. But, for a man who is finally free from jail, especially since he did not commit the crime; I don’t see Mo’s investment in this. Realistically, they had to know that escaping police was not going to happen.
There is a small part that was entertaining. The men entrusted in getting Mo and Doris across the border turn on them and Mo displays behavior that warrants his jailhouse nickname. Beating the men to bloody pulps, he gets Doris out of there and things really go to shit. They’re pursued by police and Mo does the honorable/stupid thing of pretending Doris is his hostage and he killed her husband. Thus saving her and putting him back in the big house.
I really wanted to like this film, but I found myself sorely disappointed with it. Perhaps it just wasn’t executed correctly. There are changes to Mo I’d make and I’d take out all the “running through forests” scenes. It just wasn’t a strong enough character for Boyd to really show his acting skills and a lot of the storytelling was just awkward.
Again, definitely don’t let this prevent you from watching other Boyd Holbrook movies and shows. Logan is still playing and Narcos has two seasons under its belt on Netflix. Little Accidents is a great Indie movie starring Holbrook and Elizabeth Banks.
For The Free World, I would give it two stars out of five.