Genre: Action, Comedy, Crime.
Starring: Brie Larson, Sharlto Copley, Armie Hammer, Cillian Murphy, Jack Reynor, Babou Ceesay, Enzo Cilenti, Sam Riley, Mchael Smiley, Noah Taylor, Patrick Bergin, Tom Davis, Mark Monero.
Year Of Release: 2017
Certificate: 15 (UK)
Runtime: 90 Minutes
Director: Ben Wheatley
Writer(s): Ben Wheatley & Amy Jump
Synopsis: “Set in Boston in 1978, a meeting in a deserted warehouse between two gangs turns into a shootout and a game of survival.” IMDB
Directed by Ben Wheatley (Down Terrace – 2009, Sightseers – 2012, High-Rise – 2015) and written by Wheatley and Amy Jump (Kill List – 2011, High-Rise – 2015), Free Fire delivers us, arguably, the most light-hearted movie you’ll ever see about several people trying to kill each other in an abandoned warehouse.
Now, I never watched any of the trailers going into this movie. Sometimes I like to go in blind, whilst other times I can’t help getting myself a little sneaky peak. So, my expectations of this movie beforehand were that it was basically going to be an hour-and- a-half of gun-play insanity as the cast of characters spent the entire time shooting the crap out of each other like a badass reality show for the criminally deranged. That’s basically what I took from the short synopsis that I read. That was good enough for me, sometimes you just want to go to the cinema and see something that’s a bit of fun, and Free Fire is most certainly that.
That being said, let me downplay the ‘gun-play insanity’ a little, because that really doesn’t do the movie justice as a warranted description. In a film titled Free Fire with a synopsis that reads ‘Set in Boston in 1978, a meeting in a deserted warehouse between two gangs turns into a shootout and a game of survival’, you know you’re going to get gun-play. However, for those that think you’re going in to John Wick (2014) style shoot-em- up with hints of John Woo, expecting double-gun headshots, sideways shooting, random pigeons and back-flipping pistol ninjas, then think again. Free Fire is much more grounded and gritty than that, with a scenario that is completely believable within the context of the movie and yet quite farcical, to say the least. These are not master gun-smiths (is that a real thing?), but a small group of bulk-standard criminals looking to do an arms trade and surviving by any means possible when it inevitably all goes tits up.
Free Fire doesn’t really take too long getting to the point, which is something that I found wonderfully refreshing. It spends, approximately, the first twenty minutes introducing the audience to the characters that will play out movie as they meet up in the aforementioned warehouse to broker an arms deal. There’s a palpable scent of conflict in the air right out of the bat as the characters are brought into the fold to the meeting place. A definite mistrust between all of them. Now I’m not going to go into plot in anyway other than what you already know about the film as I don’t want to spoil anything, but I will say that the build-up to the inevitable catalyst that sets the whole thing spiralling out of control is something that I felt was scripted very well. It’s very subtle in its build, and you can most definitely see it coming. As you watch things slowly getting out of hand, you just sit there waiting for that inexorable moment when things reach the point of no return. And then it happens.
One of the things that I found quite charming about this movie was the humour. Never misplaced or over-the- top, the comedy scripted into this movie is timely, off-handed in delivery and totally in- keeping with the absurdity of the situation, as these two gangs battle it out for survival. There are some great passing comments between all of them, with plenty of goading and thrown insults that have a profound sense of ‘friendly’ rivalry, whilst at the same time being serious in their intent. It’s a great style that perfectly sits as breaks of light-heartedness between the moments where they are basically just trying to kill each other and get out of the situation as fast as they can. It’s a clever and successful way of keeping the audience engaged and you actually find the characters quite likable in their own individuality.
Now, I love single-location movies, but in a movie, such as this, you have to have a good cast to carry it, otherwise it just does not work. To that end, Free Fire is a massive success. Again, for the sake of spoilers, I’m not going to go into detail in regard to the characters, its best that you meet them for yourselves and form your own opinions, and there are many great one to choose from. As a fan of Brie Larson, I was very happy to see her in the role of Justine. Larson always delivers an impressive performance, and her role in Free Fire is no exception. Larson is most definitely one of my favourite current actors. In the role of Ord (you’ll see), Armie Hammer is predictably cool (how could you not be with a name like that?). He is certainly a stand-out presence in the movie and he portrays his character with splendid likability. We also have Cillian Murphy as Chris, the guy looking to purchase the guns. Another one of my favourites, Murphy brings a calm intensity to the character with the standard that we are used to from such an amazing actor. He sells every scene that he is in. One of my personal favourites in Free Fire is Vernon, played by Sharlto Copley. He’s the guy bringing the guns for Murphy’s Chris to purchase. Everything that comes out of this man’s mouth throughout the entire movie is just gold. An exceptional performance from Copley. I could go on and on about the cast, but I’d be here all day. That being said, it would be incredible unjust of me not to mention Babou Ceesay, who in the role of Martin, delivered, for me, the best scene in the entire movie. Joining them are other fantastic performances from Jack Reynor, Sam Riley, Michael Smiley, Noah Taylor, Enzo Cilenti, Patrick Bergin, Mark Monero and Tom Davis. The cast, as an ensemble, just work together so perfectly.
Overall, Free Fire is a welcome surprise and a much-needed break from a cinematic world stuffed full to the brim with Marvel and DC. Not only did it fulfil my expectations, but it also undoubtedly exceeded them, giving me an experience that was more than what I had pictured in my mind. It moves at a steady and thoroughly enjoyable pace from start to finish, and keeps you gripped with well-fitting humour and enjoyable action. The script is extremely well crafted and the direction solid. Free Fire is brilliant in its simplicity and execution, complimented by engaging, fantastic characters portrayed superbly by a class ‘A’ cast. I cannot praise this movie enough. Go and see it for yourselves right now.