Ben Wheatley is a British filmmaker that has truly risen from the depths of low budget film making. His 2011 film ‘Kill List’ made for £500k showed us a serious promise of up and coming British film making talent. His 2012 film ‘Sightseers’ was mediocre but his dark comedic humour proved to be the strength of the film. Then in ‘High Rise’ being the bigger budget film was complex and challenging but it welcomed A-List actors to be directed by him. His fourth feature ‘Free Fire’ proves he is on the rise even higher; pun intended. Although it’s shot on a $10million budget, the muscle behind this flick is his ensemble choice of A-List actors that spar off each other through bullets, catchy dialogue and stage blood even more than ‘Macbeth’s requirements.
Set in Boston in 1978, a meeting in a deserted warehouse between two gangs turns into a shootout and a game of survival. When Justine (Brie Larson) sets up a deal between Irish mercenaries Chris (Cillian Murphy) and Frank (Michael Smiley) and gun-runners Ord (Armie Hammer) and Vern (Sharlto Copley), all appears to go smoothly. That is until Chris queries the make of the automatic weapons that Vern has brought to the deal, and a prior dispute between enemies Harry (Jack Reynor) and Stevo (Sam Riley) fires the starter pistol on a 90-minute firefight that never lets up.
The audience begin to ponder, what if Harry and Stevo never had their private discrepancy with each other? Without a doubt the deal of money and ammo would have exchanged almost smoothly and swiftly, hence the personal beef is pivotal for the action to strike like a match and the fire to be set free into violence that is comedic as well as graphic, but entertaining. Who shoots who and how or where they get shot is comical that only one person can get out alive with the money like Mr Pink almost did in ‘Reservoir Dogs.’
It is imperative to know that everyone will compare ‘Free Fire’ to ‘Reservoir Dogs.’ The one set warehouse location still works. Even if it’s a cheap location, it’s what Wheatley chooses to make from it that counts. He has used his set wisely as every character gets shot and injured. Every character is like a bleeding Mr Orange. They crawl or limp; they are doused in blood and drenched in sweat as they hold their guns on guard. What remains problematic is the audience do not support any character and have no desire of which one to root for in terms of who will walk out with the cash.
However, what the audience will root for and decide is who their favourite actor is that stole the show. Academy Award winner Brie Larson has taken advantage of her Oscar win from last year. To appear in ‘Kong: Skull Island’ and now ‘Free Fire’ are interesting choices. She chooses not to carry the film like she did in ‘Room’ but be part of an amazing ensemble. She doesn’t steal the show nor disappoints. Armie Hammer and Cillian Murphy are also a stand out as they are given enough on screen time to impress and shine in their action and indulge in their character. It is Sharlto Copley that is the emerald of the film. He steals the film because of his comedic talent and is not afraid to flaunt his thick South African accent. His spoilt persona is like a South African Joe Pesci borrowed from ‘Goodfellas.’
‘Free Fire’ is worth watching, but not a film to be registered as an all time classic. An ensemble with guns sounds like a great premise. But it would be nice to build the tension at the right pace rather than to be hit with it within 15 minutes.
[rating=3] | Aly Lalji
crime, comedy | UK, 2016 | 15 | 31st March 2017 (UK) | Studiocanal | Dir.Ben Wheatley | Cillian Murphy, Sharlto Copley, Brie Larsson, Armie Hammer,