The set up is easy, a group of guys, most likely Irish mobsters, led by the knowledgable Chris (Cillian Murphy), old-man Frank (Michael Smiley), grunt worker Bernie (Enzo Cilenti) and all-world fuck up- Stevo (Sam Riley), are being set up by Justine (Brie Larson, looking about as cool as a cucumber) to have a meeting with middle-man Ord (Armie Hammer) to buy some black market guns. The person they are purchasing from is wild-man Vernon (Sharlto Copley, sporting a solid handlebar mustache) and his group of thugs including: driver Harry (Sing Street's Jack Reynor), mystery man Gordon (Noah Taylor), and right-hand man Martin (Babou Ceesay). It should all be a simple exchange of money for guns, but when you put this collection of trigger happy fools, who couldn't hit the broadside of a barn in a room together, some possible bad blood between two of these men, well, you just know something bad is about to happen.
Free Fire is directed by Ben Wheatley. Now if you don't recognize that name, you might not be paying attention to cinema too closely. The director of such films as Sightseers, Kill List, and last years adaptation of the J.G. Ballard novel, of a post-apocalyptic apartment complex utopia- High Rise, has made quite a name for himself. He directed and co-wrote this film with his wife Amy Jump. Much like High Rise, he sets his films in the 1970's, allowing him to dress his characters in outfits that describe more about them than any words could ever do. On top of this, Free Fire takes place in a spectacularly dingy warehouse filled with cement rocks, tanks of gasoline, and dangerous weapons, to the point that it becomes a character in itself. Besides, when everyone begins shooting at one another it's easy to lose track of who the good and bad guys are in this free for all.
You would also think in a movie that is 90 minutes of bullets flying would be lacking in characters. That is certainly not true in the case of Copley, who steals the show (his character work in Hardcore Henry was quite impressive). This performance is ridiculously quick witted, as many of the other characters quip about his South African accent, and he clearly has an approach of “fake it, so you make it” as an arms dealer. He exaggerates about the pain he's in when grazed by a bullet, attempts to use cardboard boxes he finds as armor, and is a terrible shot. On top of his top notch work, is the methodical choreography that Wheatley uses to pair each character against one another in reckless combat. They move into various positions, often shielding for cover, climbing stairs, army crawling on the ground, and sometimes finding themselves face-to-face with someone not afraid to pull the trigger.
Free Fire makes for a time at the movies that is fast paced, sharp hitting laughs, and keeping you on the edge of your seat. The bullets whiz by, the sound design is top of the line, and the action is like a glorified game of paintball...only with real consequences. I was reminded of other classic shootouts in films such as L.A. Confidential, the lobby scene in The Matrix, and plenty of other great westerns from Sam Peckinpah. Much like how the Fast & Furious movies are just one long glorified chase sequence turned into a movie, it's about time we had an artistic shootout film. Free Fire is a lot of wacky fun to be had at the movies and I had a blast.
3 ½ STARS
Written by: Leo Brady
MOVIE: FREE FIRE
STARRING: ARMIE HAMMER; BRIE LARSON; SHARLTO COPLEY; CILLIAN MURPHY
DIRECTED BY: BEN WHEATLEY
AMovieGuy.com's RATING: 3 ½ STARS (Out of 4 Stars)
Sometimes it's just fun to watch a good ole' fashioned shootout. And sometimes, as critics, we often complain about how movies today are filled with dumb and mindless entertainment. Well, in director Ben Wheatley's new film Free Fire, I give you full permission to sit back and enjoy the wild action, no matter how little knowledge you gain when you leave the theater. There may not be too much to truly analyze about this, as it involves a collection of thugs, arms dealers, drug users, and a badass Brie Larson, congregating in an abandon warehouse in this fun filled shoot-em up extravaganza. Free Fire keeps your head on a swivel, in this fast paced bullet storm.