Starring: Sharlto Copley, Armie Hammer, Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy
Directed By: Ben Wheatley
Running Time: 91 Minutes
UK Release Date: 31st March 2017
BBFC Certificate: 15
There is no doubt that Ben Wheatley is a rising British talent whose previous work effortlessly blends comedy, drama, action, the macabre, surreal tones and suspense; all the while being entertaining and engaging for an audience. But with his movies, you never really know what to expect. It comes as little surprise that he has amassed a well-known and highly talented international cast for his latest feature, Free Fire. However, on this film is he bringing out the big guns or firing blanks, dodgy puns fully intended?
Without giving away too much, Free Fire is a mostly-single-location action comedy about an illegal arms deal in a warehouse between two gangs, which quickly goes sour resulting in all characters having a shootout.
Having said that, I feel that I have disclosed the entirety of the film, which is at heart a simplistic premise with some great lines of dialogue, a cool soundtrack and a few hilarious moments. All in all it’s a fun and often silly watch, but it’s hard to stretch out this concept into a feature length film and it may have been better suited as an hour long TV show.
I’ll start with the negatives first of all by saying that it doesn’t live up to the hype, but don’t let that put you off if you are interested in seeing it. At points the editing is a mess and you wonder how some characters moved into certain areas in the warehouse, and the use of soundtrack isn’t as iconic or well-placed as other 70’s set action films.
It has the feel of a low budget film that was shot in a weekend and to summarise, it’s mostly dubious and incompetent criminals crawling around a dusty warehouse while trying to shoot each other and missing for the majority of its run time.
But now onto the positives! The first part of the film is great at setting up the characters, their history and their dominance over others in the groups, and the catalyst of the shootout is well handled. All in all it’s a great blend of serious, playful and suspenseful.
Standout performances (in no particular order) come from Armie Hammer, Cillian Murphy, Michael Smiley and Sharlto Copley. That being said the rest of the leads are great but, of course, there isn’t a fair enough balance of witty dialogue and screen time distributed between them to make them all shine. However, some of the dialogue is great and expertly delivered by certain actors.
The costumes, haircuts and constant chain-smoking from some characters firmly cement this film into the 70’s, and to be fair some of the songs used in the soundtrack are well utilized. Now I don’t know if this will be a cult classic but it had the demeanour of a cult film. Whether this is intentional or not remains to be seen, but it has some elements of grindhouse cinema and a bit of OTT video nasty gore thrown in for good measure.
It’s entertaining enough but it kind of feels like a stop gap film for director/co-writer Ben Wheatley to get noticed in America. I firmly believe if he chooses to he will successfully make the transition to Hollywood, and hopefully be given creative freedom to create a sinister Marvel movie.
Free Fire is what you’d expect: a seemingly low budget film with a near perfect cast and some great humorous beats, but it’s not the sort of intense non-stop action film you may be expecting. Don’t get me wrong though as it is an entertaining film, but there is only so much you can do with the concept, and Wheatley and his crew have taken it to its limit without dragging it out.
Overall Verdict: A fun and often silly action movie with a great cast and some great dialogue, but it isn’t the explosive film some may be expecting. However it’s an enjoyable crime caper with an authentic 70’s feel that utilizes its concept well.
Reviewer: George Elcombe