Free Fire Review
It’s as funny as it is brutal.
What should have been a swift and easy transaction quickly turns into a Western style, free for all, shoot out.Free Fire is a film that delivers drug use, mum jokes and unforgettable one liners (‘I look like I tried to f*ck a reluctant panda bear’) within the first 10 minutes; the perfect set up for the remaining 80 minutes. Set against the backdrop of 1978 Boston, Irish duo Chris (Cillian Murphy) and Frank (Michael Smiley) are accompanied by Justine (Oscar-winner Brie Larson) on their way to exchange a large sum of cash for a van load of rifles. Their backup Stevo (Sam Riley) and Bernie (Enzo Cilenti) make their own way to the meeting, with Stevo nursing a black eye from a bar brawl the previous night. Delivering the merchandise are Vernon (Sharlto Copley) and Martin (Babou Ceesay) along with their mediator Ord (Armie Hammer) and their back up guys Harry (Jack Reynor) and Gordon (Noah Taylor). The entirety of the film takes place within an old disused warehouse, the perfect place for an illegal gun trade.Everything starts off fairly pleasantly as the two sides begin the show and tell process of their exchange with Copley’s Vernon playing the desperate macho type as he tries to win over Justine with his attempt at flirting. It’s insinuated that Chris and Frank are part of or associated with the IRA and that the guns are destined for Ireland. Ord exudes an eerie calmness about himself that’s borderline psychotic but dulled down for the most part by his pot smoking. There’s instant tension between Frank and Ord as each one tries to assert their power over the other but Justine is the calming force between the men and reminds them what they’re here to do. Just as the deal is about to be tied up, a dispute erupts between the two sides and before you know it the cast are trading bullets along with all the insults. Directed by Ben Wheatley who also co-wrote the script with Amy Jump, Free Fire quickly descends into pure madness.
It’s just over an hour of violence and gun fire with roughly 20 minutes of set up at the start. Looking at it this way Free Fire sounds like a poor excuse for a film, but it’s the simple and hilarious script that keeps this film entertaining. In addition, the filmmakers do a good job of mixing up the pace, giving both the audience and the characters much needed, albeit brief, respite and while it does go on for a long old time it remains completely watchable and enjoyable. Despite being set in Boston the film was actually shot in Brighton and even though the film is set in the late seventies, like that of High-Rise, the period doesn’t really play into the film too much, aside from the costuming and the sound track, it could have been set in the present day.
The film comprises predominantly of mid-shots and close-ups with the occasional pan and tracking shot, which combined with the lack of establishing shots does create a level of confusion within the location. We are never given the full layout of the building and thus never know who is just around the corner. This is particularly clever as it’s where Wheatley and Jump really succeed; the few surprises that transpire throughout course of the film, granted there aren’t any great twists, provide enough to keep it from turning into a complete disaster. No-one is given a free pass in this film and before long everyone is scrambling around nursing wounds and desperately trying to reload their weapons.
Shifts in pace and a smart script keep Free Fire entertaining
The whole cast are likeable, despite all being bad guys, which could present an issue with knowing whose side we as the audience are supposed to be on, but we quickly find out that no-one is completely innocent. Copley comes close to stealing the show as Vernon, who delights in delivering rhyming words of wisdom to his cohorts such as ‘vern and learn’. Caring more about his suit from Savile Row, Vernon seriously lacks in the skills department when it comes to talking to the ladies, and is predicability hilarious from start to finish. Larson’s Justine is no shrinking violent and gives as good as she gets as the mayhem ensues. The whole cast, in fact, work together brilliantly and each bring something to the chaos.
Free Fire is a laugh out loud film that despite running the risk of becoming monotonous manages to keep itself afloat thanks to the cast and the clever scriptwriting. It might not be for those looking to indulge in something deep and meaningful, but for those who want a funny, and at times brutal, hour and half of escapism Free Fire is your ticket.
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