Free Fire

Ben Wheatley’s follow-up to High Rise is just as divisive. The entire movie takes place in a warehouse with a 90-minute shootout. Each of the characters, about 15 of them total, are split into two sides, like Battleship. We get brief introductions before they take sides and begin shooting at one another. The cast most recognizable to American audiences: Kong: Skull Island’s Brie Larson and Armie Hammer (Nocturnal Animals) out front. The rest of the cast is comprised of Eurocentric stars like Cillian Murphy (Batman Begins) and Sharlto Copley (District 9). A few of the characters are true villains, but for the most part the script doesn’t try to sway the audience to root for one side or the other, we just watch them slowly blast each other away.

Tensions are high going into massive illegal arms deal. Both sides, the buyers, and the sellers, have handlers and mediators for the exchange. M16’s were ordered, but AR70’s are delivered. That’s the first issue in this transaction. Justine (Larson) tries to mediate between the two parties, not showing an alliance to either as long as things go smoothly, but make no mistake, she is packing too. The next problem becomes the final catalyst when Harry (Reynor), part of the selling crew, spots Stevo (Riley) part of the buyers, whom he nearly beat to a pulp the night before. Guns are drawn, shots are fired and things get even worse when a third party shows up spraying even more bullets.

Doesn’t have enough narrartive depth to engage the viewer beyond flying bullets.

What sounds like a deadly bloodbath is actually quite funny. It’s the comedy in Wheatley’s script that makes everything else tolerable. The ironic humor amid all the bizarre antics of Wheatley’s High Rise, was that films only positive. Thankfully it’s only a 90-minute film, and even that felt stretched out to pack on minutes. Sticking the viewer in one setting for than length gets daunting and tedious. I can’t fathom the editing on this action film, but despite best efforts, the boredom sets in. Free Fire doesn’t have enough depth to engage the viewer, and that’s a problem. They talked about the inspirations from various video games, and it starts to feel like watching one.

Most of the talent in the film are not big enough personalities or stars to get the audience invested in their outcome. The writing certainly isn’t there to promote or invest in their well being. Copley, as he usually does, sucks up most of the air in the room with his big personality and showy performance. While Copley is the most memorable performer in the lot, Hammer gets his own funny bits as he prepares for a big 2017 with two far more prestigious roles on the way. Having the film take place in the 70’s really doesn’t add much to the films aesthetic (except for the marketing materials). The choice to have these characters miss their target 85% of the time, does however have a negative effect on the viewer’s capacity for nonsense. If the goal is to stage a suspenseful and deadly shootout, don’t give all these characters so many outs, that was more frustrating than anything else.

Final Thought

Film and sound editing are the highlights in this 90 minute shootout that becomes more frustrating than exciting.


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