Title: Free Fire
MPAA Rating: R
Director: Ben Wheatley
Starring: Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, Michael Smiley
Runtime: 91 Mins
What It Is: Set in Boston in 1978 Justine (Larson) has brokered a meeting between Irishman (Murphy) and a gang led by Vernon (Copley), who are selling them a stash of guns. However, when shots are fired in the handover a game of heart stopping survival ensues.
What We Think: Free Fire is probably Ben Wheatley’s most accessible film to date and the simplicity of the plot is one of its main strengths as it wastes no time with any big set up and simply via a few twists gets to the meat of the story.
It follows the events of an arms deal taking place between an IRA operative and a South African gun runner and their associated gangs and the exchange seems to be going smoothly until it descends into utter chaos as everyone takes up arms in order to protect their pride more than anything else. We then watch as guns are fired indiscriminately at all and sundry. Our characters are bloodied, battered and tired as the screen becomes a wash of dust, blood, and dirt.
With such aimless (literally) violence on the screen, it’s a good job that the script leaves room for laughs which added to the absurdity of it as one gang member declares “I forgot whose side I am on”. The film feels like Ben Wheatley blowing off some steam and it’s certainly enjoyable, he taps into a vein of callous humor as he brings us this blood bath caked in funny one liners and if you don’t mind indulging in a little schadenfreude there’s a lot to like.
One final word on the cinematography, this is superb, Laurie Rose somehow makes an abandoned warehouse look like a war film with a heady mixture of gold and burgundy as the camera swoops around like you would see on a battlefield. Despite this, you are never disorientated or confused.
Our Grade: B-, Overall, I have to say I expected better from Wheatley, his films to date have been multilayered, genre bending affairs and it seemed strange to see him at the helm of something so simple as a bullet strewn release. I do admit to laughing at some parts but it couldn’t decide if it was meant to be taken serious or was a dark comedy.