Review by: Robert Trate
Starring: Sharlto Copley, Armie Hammer, Cillian Murphy, Brie Larson
Written by: Amy Jump (screenplay), Ben Wheatley (screenplay)
Directed by: Ben Wheatley
Original Year of Release: 2017
Run Time: 90 minutes
The trailer for Free Fire is what hooked me. An illegal deal, for whatever reason, goes horribly wrong. In a lot of ways, I was hoping that the film and its story was going to be more in line with Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs. That is a lot to ask of any film, as Dogs is now hailed as a classic. Turns out, Free Fire is more of its own thing than a modern version of Tarantino’s crime caper, which is why I both liked and disliked it.
Comparisons are always bad to make in film reviews. It’s difficult, but I need you to relate to what I am talking about, without spoiling the film. Free Fire is as exactly as I described it, a deal gone bad. You see this coming a mile away, but to the credit of Ben Wheatley (director/ writer) and Amy Jump (co-writer), it takes a bit longer than expected to get there. Set in the 1970’s (which gives a great style and look to the film), IRA arms buyer, Chris (Cillian Murphy) finds himself in a meeting set up by Ord (Armie Hammer) and Justine (Brie Larson) to buy guns from South African gunrunner, Vernon (Sharlto Copley). Everything is very professional and above board, as much as the selling of illegal weapons can be, and it ends up being the low-level henchmen that kick-start the fight, causing everything to go to hell.
What we have here is a great one-location shoot out, where all those involved have little loyalty to each other or their own business partners. This, of course, can be expected in stories about criminal underworld dealings. What I found unique and fascinating is that, unlike Reservoir Dogs, we are only given what is put in front of us for these characters. There are no flashbacks, flash forwards, or out-of-sequence moments that set up any backstory for this deal gone bad. Even the henchmen’s beef with one another is never actually seen. So what we have here is a great collaboration of actors, shining in the oddest of circumstances.
As the fire fight between everyone rages on with small breaks for reloading, humor, and quick taunting, we do learn that loyalties are fractured as a third party gets involved with the shoot out. These new guys are there for everything, the money and the guns. Their allegiance to one of the people involved is in fact not revealed for some time. However, their presence elevates the situation. After a while it does become hard to remember who is still alive outside of our principle leads.
Free Fire is a fun film if you like watching characters in extreme circumstances and having no break in what is going on. A warning to non-fans of both Sharlto Copley and Cillian Murphy: their accents are a tad thicker than usual to understand. However, both fit the Seventies motif perfectly. Brie Larson is good, but there isn’t enough of her in the film. Then again, there isn’t character or backstory for any of the characters involved, which does allow you to you create it for yourself. That may or may not be for everyone, but Free Fire is definitely worth the watch.
One last thing, you might have “Annie’s Song” by John Denver, stuck in your head after viewing the film.
- Audio Commentary with Co-Writer/Director Ben Wheatley
- “The Making of Free Fire” Featurette