The film “Free Fire” is a unique venture from Ben Wheatley. The story takes place in one location and can be summarized as a long, extended shootout. It begins with two different gangs meeting at a warehouse in 1970s Boston: one seeks to purchase guns while the other acts as the seller.
However, when the two groups come face-to-face, tensions arise. Words start flying and soon, so do bullets.
What began as a simple gun deal becomes a game of “last man standing.” The film boasts a star-studded cast including Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, Armie Hammer and Sharlto Copley, all of whom shine in their roles. The film is a showcase for their talent that rides the waves of their chemistry and physicality to a successful story.
On the outside, the film seems like a pretty standard, “shoot ‘em up” action movie. In reality, though, it’s a dark comedy interwoven with intense shootout scenes. The writing is absolutely hilarious and every other line is delivered with the actors’ biting wit. Dry humor perfectly fits the film’s tone as it undercuts the ridiculousness of what is happening around the characters.
If the film took itself too seriously, the whole thing would not work. However, Wheatley is able to poke fun of the film within itself, allowing the audience to recognize the situation’s absurdity. Combining that with a series of eccentric characters, the film never dips too far from its comedic bones. When it does the moment is always earned and stays relevant to the situation.
The characters make the film. Cillian Murphy is a straightforward Irishman who wants to buy his guns and get out. Brie Larson and Armie Hammer, the two intermediaries, both possess some playful repartee but Sharlto Copley steals the show as Vernon, the arms dealer. Copley is a prideful but oblivious lunatic who has a propensity for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. He steals every scene with a zany approach to each of the situations he faces. He embodies the silliness present throughout the film and is by far the highlight of the cast.
“Free Fire” is a unique film. The concept itself is a decently experimental risk. It’s tough to successfully bring to the screen but the extremely talented Wheatley knows how to fit each little piece to complete the puzzle. The film never gets boring; something is always happening within the firefight to give the characters purpose.
There is always an objective and there are always obstacles and but it’s enough to keep the characters and the audience engaged. A mysterious subplot runs throughout that is handled masterfully as it’s not completely forced into the film but is never out of one’s mind. “Free Fire” takes many risks and they almost all pay off.
Entertaining an audience with one scene for an hour and a half is a lot of work, but “Free Fire” pulled it off so well it feels like it only lasts a few minutes.
The film does a decent job of connecting the characters but is more of an ensemble arc than a collection of personal ones. The film works because it recognizes itself for what it is: silly, wacky, outrageous and fun.
The film hits theaters April 21.