Freelance, the new action-comedy starring John Cena, has had a rough opening weekend. The movie, which was helmed by Taken director Pierre Morel, follows an Army veteran (Cena) whose gig protecting a journalist (Alison Brie) turns especially dangerous when a coup breaks out and the pair are forced to escape through the wild, war-torn jungle. When the Freelance Rotten Tomatoes score debuted ahead of its opening day, the movie was awarded a thoroughly Rotten 0%, aggregated from reviews written by more than 20 critics.
Per Deadline, Freelance’s box office opening weekend has turned out a rather dismal result. The movie is currently projected to take in a 3-day total of $2.1 million, putting it in seventh place behind bigger new movies such as Five Nights at Freddy’s and Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour. This opening weekend comes nowhere close to recouping the movie’s budget of $40 million, and in fact makes back just over 5% of that price tag, which is only the production budget and doesn’t factor in publicity costs.
This box office result for Freelance may be somewhat surprising considering the fact that Cena is a star who has been a part of many successful projects in recent years. In fact, all six of his previous major wide-release movies from the 2020s have grossed more than $100 million at the worldwide box office. However, none of those titles feature John Cena as the central star or even as a member of a duo.
All of those movies (namely Dolittle, F9, The Suicide Squad, Fast X, Barbie, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem) place John Cena as a part of an ensemble. The size of his parts in those movies may vary, like the small cameo role he held in Barbie. However, he seems to work best as part of a strong group of perfomers, as the streaming success of his movie Vacation Friends and its sequel Vacation Friends 2 (which see him as a major part of a four-person ensemble) also attests.
While he is the lead character in the popular The Suicide Squad spinoff show Peacemaker, that show also surrounds him with a strong ensemble. These Peacemaker characters are brought to life by a gathering of unique performers including Danielle Brooks, Freddie Stroma, Chukwudi Iwuji, Jennifer Holland, Steve Agee, and Robert Patrick. While Freelance most likely didn’t fail primarily because John Cena is its central star, it does show that the actor’s recent commitment to seeking out strong ensembles has been a good choice.