A fantastically fun war of attrition brimming with shady characters, salty language, and bullets…lots of bullets.
Ben Wheatley and Amy Jump fuse their unique brand of violence and humour together once more in this film about an arms deal gone south. Chris (Cillian Murphy) and Frank (Michael Smiley) are in Boston to buy some guns, their deal being brokered with the help of Justine (Brie Larson) and Ord (Armie Hammer). The prospective seller is Vernon (Sharlto Copley), a child prodigy who never lived up to his potential, and his associates. After the two groups meet in an abandoned warehouse, tensions quickly shift up a gear when Harry (Jack Reynor) and Stevo (Sam Riley), helpers on either side of the deal, recognise each other from a bust up the night before. The scuffle escalates quickly once a shot is fired and the deal breaks out into a full scale gun fight in a confined space. With little cover and a lot of bullets everyone starts scrambling for their lives, but not before they get what they came for.
If Free Fire has a star it has to be the script, chaotic violence riddled with explosive humour provide the cast ample opportunity to flex both action and comedy muscles with flair. The film wastes no time in setting the scene as the unscrupulous characters convene to buy some weapons, and none of these folk are friendly with one another. After all this is a business transaction and not a social event. Wheatley manages to balance his raggedy group of criminals really well considering the size. As shots ricochet off walls and pillars we dart back and forth between comic retorts and violent actions against one another. The feuds lead to accidents, which lead to misunderstandings, which lead to murder. It’s a cycle that really shouldn’t be funny, but it is, especially with John Denver playing in the background as people are shot, set on fire, and crushed by vehicles.
Now ensemble casts are a tricky thing to master, some might have bigger roles, others less developed. Frequently it leads to a few niggles but here everyone is given their chance to shine, regardless of how unpleasant the characters might be. Armie Hammer continues his ascent (The Lone Ranger was damn good I tell ya!), Jack Reynor continues to show promise, and Sharlto Copley is such a treat you wonder why he isn’t on our screens more. It does mean that no single character gets significantly more development than the others. But this ain’t no character study, it’s war. A really poorly fought war with characters so out of their depth. Ensuring proceedings don’t get stale are a couple of wrinkles thrown in the characters paths, unexpected visitors and the discovery of a phone result in a wacky races type dash, but rather than cars they’re dragging themselves through dirt and broken glass whilst avoiding the blind fire of everybody else. If you ever wondered what happens when a Mexican stand off goes awry, watch this.
Come the credit roll Free Fire is a fantastically fun war of attrition brimming with shady characters, salty language, and bullets…lots of bullets. It’s one of the most entertaining films we’ve seen this year, and you should watch it.