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cast: Phil Daniels, Gary Stretch, Geoff Bell, and Peter Bowles

director: Jon Ivay

89 minutes (15) 2007
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Anchor Bay DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 5/10
reviewed by Barbara Davies
In this road movie/ stoner comedy, biker Fred (former boxer, Gary Stretch) agrees to do the Chairman (Peter Bowles) a favour by going to see a hippy (Arthur Brown) about some Welsh cannabis. But what should have been a relaxing road trip to the Black Mountains turns out to be anything but. Fred's choice of travelling companions - amiable small-time thief Tyg (Geoff Bell), who's never been further than the M25, and permanently stoned Grouch (Phil Daniels) - is hardly wise. And how is he to know they're heading straight for a war zone... or that the Beast of Brecon calls this part of Wales home?

Our hapless heroes aren't getting any younger, and while they bumble around trying to locate the cannabis, hindered somewhat by 'shroom-spiked coffee, their preoccupations are very different. In love with advertising executive Lucinda (Laila Rouass), Grouch is torn between going straight (as if!) and remaining the free bird of the film's title. As for Fred, his estranged wife and child live in this neck of Wales, and he's tempted to embrace familial responsibilities at long last. Meanwhile Tyg's dreams are simpler: to go to the 'States and open a pub. Such concerns become irrelevant, however, when the three find themselves caught up in the conflict between two large biker gangs: the Wessex and the Welsh-speaking Iron Horse. And the Beast of Brecon, the large black cat that (with Grouch's unwitting help) originally triggered the conflict, is also about to make its fearsome return.

Freebird starts off in lively fashion, with Bowles in a cameo role as far from his character in To The Manor Born as you can get, but unfortunately fails to live up to its initial promise. Jon Ivay evidently thinks that showing three overgrown schoolboys getting stoned, staggering around the woods pretending to be in the TA, and satisfying an attack of the munchies at the village sweetshop, is innately funny, but he merely succeeds in making the viewer feel like the only one sober at a chaotic, drunken party. The plot, such as it is, has its moments, but it sags during the overlong druggy scenes, and leans too heavily on coincidence. As for Grouch - a literally eye-rolling performance by Daniels (Still Crazy, Quadrophenia), believing he could have formed a relationship with anyone, let alone the classy Lucinda strains credulity to breaking point.

Who is the Chairman, and what is Fred's relationship to him? Why is there a seven-foot-tall, growling biker in a wrestler's mask charging around the woods like a wild beast? Ivay would have done better perhaps to concentrate less on the 'hilarious' drug-taking scenes and more on filling in plot holes. Daniels, Stretch and Bell have the right chemistry to make convincing male buddies, but their acting is variable, to put it mildly. The scenery's nice, though. This is one for those who love motorbikes, biker culture, and the Lynyrd Skynyrd song... or are frequently stoned themselves.

DVD extras: there's an audio commentary with Jon Ivay, a 'making of' featurette, six deleted scenes, cast and crew interviews, a theatrical trailer, storyboard comparison of two scenes, and the screenplay (on DVD-ROM).

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