"F**k the small talk. Let's buy some guns, eh?"
After an IRA arms deal in a remote Boston warehouse goes awry tensions erupt into a gunfight of epic proportions. It’s every man/woman for themselves as each of the criminals attempt to talk and shoot their way out of the warehouse while making off with either the guns, the money or both.
Free Fire is the latest film from prolific, and highly underrated, English filmmaker Ben Wheatley whose films have varied from down and dirty crime dramas (Down Terrace) to dark thrillers (Kill List) and even high-brow concept pieces (High-Rise). He’s a director that manages to jump across genres frequently while retaining a unique style and flair to his work and Free Fire is no exception.
Wheatley has constructed something genre fans have dreamed of seeing for years, an entire film that's just one big shootout. I understand that this may sound amazing for some and completely tiresome for others but Free Fire manages to do something special with this simple premise, it makes you give a shit. Wheatley, and his co-writer Amy Jump, use the first 20 minutes of the film to cleverly develop each character, their backstories and their tangential connection with one another. They don’t linger on this but rather subtly drip feed information to the audience so that they’re able to know exactly who everybody is and who we should care about before the bullets start to fly.
Cillian Murphy serves as our main “protagonist”, an everyman with a fighting cause that acts as a sort of surrogate for the audience in amongst the insanity of the action and bizarre characters he finds himself surrounded by. Sharlto Copley delivers is his usual manic, off-beat brand of performance, providing some much needed levity throughout the gunfire, while Armie Hammer flexes his comedic muscles, laying on the charm as thick as he can as a schmoozing, pot smoking arms dealer. It’s just a shame Brie Larson isn’t given much to do given the interesting setup her character is given, not to mention the fact she’s the lone woman in amongst the action, however I feel this is just Larson continuing her trend of using her star power to pick awesome genre movies to act in (see also Kong: Skull Island) as she seems to be having a blast with this one (no pun intended).
The film has an engaging structure, breaking up the action every once in a while to allow the characters to regroup and take stock of the situation. This works to propel the narrative and our attachment to the cast but also give the audience a reprieve from the gunplay, which, as fun as it is, gets a little tiresome at some points. The film never drags and you always find yourself engaged with what’s going on, the twists it presents and the way it all unfolds. With a crisp running time of 90 minutes, Wheatley has crafted a short, sharp genre piece that is likely to be one of the more fun experiences you have at the cinema this year.
Free Fire is violent, funny, shocking and ridiculously charming. While the action may get a little tiresome at points, the characters are strong enough to keep you hooked and you’re sure to be laughing and cringing until the last bullet is fired.
8 out of 10.
Reviewed by Chris Swan.