Free Fire Movie Review: The Way of Very Bad Things
Amid the already released and upcoming summer blockbusters coming out right now, a wickedly funny and violently in your face shoot ’em up released this week called Free Fire. Directed by Ben Wheatley (a Dr. Who alum who’s most notable work is the Tom Hiddleston film High-Rise), produced by Martin Scorsese and starring Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, Armie Hammer and Sharlto Copley, Free Fire received little to no advertising, with the exception of Facebook and YouToub ads – which isn’t surprising, considering its $10 million budget – so no one really knows that this little gem of a bloody dark comedy is out!
Set in mid-1970’s Boston, Free Fire tells the story of an arms deal between a couple of IRA hoods and a South African arms dealer and how it all goes horribly wrong. To say that there is a story is a bit of a lie, in the sense that it’s really just one long extended scene. There’s no real act 1 through act 3 arc here. There’s the introduction to the characters, then the catalyst that sets everything off, followed by bloodshed and snappy dialogue. What makes it work, however, are the characters and the actors who play them, as there are little story beats throughout the whole film that kind of have their own arcs that give the film a bit of a realistic flow to a situation like that. Characters are plotting against each other as the situation waffles side to side.
Ben Wheatley’s direction is pretty much on point, managing to keep the pace relatively tight despite everything playing out in real time as an hour and half long gun fight. Which is also a testament to careful balance of the script by Amy Jump and Ben, and they still manage to have the characters have a kind of subtle depth to them in the midst of all the carnage. One minor quibble with the directing and the cinematography by Laurie Rose, is the hand held style it’s filmed in. More so when things get truly frenetic in a hand to hand scuffle and it’s a bit difficult to see what’s going on as the shots are up close and shaky.
The cast of main players is a veritable who’s who of solid talent. Cillian Murphy plays Chris, the right hand man to Michael Smiley’s IRA buttonman, Frank. Brie Larson is Justine, a kind of intermediary to Armie Hammer’s character Ord, who’s the broker for the deal. And then there’s Sharlto Copley, an actor who regularly steals the show in almost every movie he’s in, as Vernon the South African arms dealer. Everyone here plays well off each other, keeping you engaged and laughing through what could otherwise be a trying affair.
A key point to raise in regards to the action is that this isn’t some super stylistic gunplay movie. I went into this thinking it might be somewhat like Smokin’ Aces, because that was the vibe I got from the trailer. Instead, what I got was something that treated the action a bit more realistically. A man shooting with a snub nosed .38 isn’t going to hit his target that’s at least 30 yards away. There are a lot of missed shots and limb wounds as people duck and dive for cover amidst frantic shooting – something that probably mimics the reality of a gun fight with people who aren’t actually trained killers. So keep in mind – this isn’t John Wick.
As much as I thoroughly enjoyed this film, I am very aware that this is a kind of niche film. It’s not going to appeal to the wider general audience, but it’s still a pretty well made film…or extended action scene. Still, if you’re a fan of these actors, and you like supporting small budget indie films, then go see this one.