Director: Ben Wheatley
Free Fire is the latest film from young British director Ben Wheatley and his partner Amy Jump, the pair of whom you might recognise from films such as High Rise, Kill List and Sightseers. It’s set in 70s Boston, in a warehouse where an illicit gun deal is going down between a delegation of IRA men and a South African gun runner, all under the eyes of a pair of American fixers. Things don’t go to plan, a couple of junior hotheads kick off, the situation escalates quickly, and before you know it the entire last hour of a 90 minute film is a manic 12-way shootout, with everyone trying to escape with a bag of money while making sure nobody else does.
This could have been one big injoke, a pub discussion taken too far, but it works, largely down to some great editing that establishes the location brilliantly, and a sharp script that establishes and defines each character well. Building on that, Wheatley has assembled a great cast to inhabit the characters. Armie Hammer’s ice cool fixer dude is very entertaining, the Irish contingent of Cillian Murphy and Michael Smiley (who will always be Tyres out of Spaced to me) are both menacing and authentically seventies dowdy, but it’s Sharlto Copley as the vain and cocky, yet ultimately ineffectual, Vern who steals the movie. Yes, criminals turning on each other in a warehouse is always going to make you think of Reservoir Dogs, but this has a very different feel. Where Tarantino is interested in the glamour and allure of crime movies, Wheatley is much more concerned with the basic stupidity of his protagonists. Bullets fly everywhere, plenty of wounds are taken, people are killed, and the whole thing could have been so easily avoided or curtailed by a little bit of sense. And those wounds! There are no Hollywood graceful dying falls here – by the final scenes, almost every survivor has been hit several times and is crawling round on his belly grimacing while ricochets zing around above their heads.
It is very violent but just as importantly it’s also very funny (as long as black comedy is your thing), like Looney Tunes for grown-ups. It’s not reinventing anything, and there won’t be a string of copycat films in its wake, but it is terrific fun.
Might appeal to people who enjoyed:
Assault On Precinct 13, The Wild Bunch,