Free Fire - This Movie Rocks All Guns - All The Time
Dir: Ben Wheatley
Starring Brie Larson, Sharlto Copley, Armie Hammer, Cillian Murphy, Michael Smiley, Sam Riley, Jack Reynor, Noah Taylor, Patrick Bergin
With Free Fire, Ben Wheatley once again finds himself back in the ‘70s vibe of his previous High Rise, though this time for real. Set in 1978 Boston (although shot in 2016 Brighton), the director’s latest is a one location, extended shoot out. It’s also the most accomplished, accessible and entertaining film the man has made to date.
Murphy, Smiley and co represent the Irish (IRA) here to buy guns from American Hammer and South African Copley – facilitated by only woman in town Larson. It all takes place in an abandoned factory late at night, it should all go smoothly. But minor tensions and unexpected issues queer the pitch and pretty soon it’s all guns – all the time.
First and foremost, the ghost of Reservoir Dogs has to be acknowledged here – if only for the use of single location, the level of violence, the genuine wit of the script (by Wheatley and his missus Amy Jump) and the ironic use of pop music – you will never listen to John Denver the same way. But if that was all this was then, yes, it wouldn’t add up to much.
Thankfully, Wheatley here goes beyond that, largely due to a strong sense of character – quickly identified in the film’s set up and suitably individual from each other, and a strong sense of humour. In fact, it’s the film's gunplay – admittedly adventurous and inventive at times – that provides the least interesting moments of the movie. The set up is rarely bettered, but it’s also the downtime between the shooting, where those that still survive try to work out how to get out of what is frankly an increasingly absurd situation, that makes the movie.
Wheatley has been to date a director who has never been afraid to wear his influences proudly – from The Wicker Man to Witchfinder General to Nic Roeg in many ways. Here, with Scorsese’s name blaring out as executive producer, the milieu is initially clear; the fact he makes it his own is a testament to the man.
Great cast as well, with Sam Riley and Jack Reynor especially good as the loose cannon instigators of the melee than ensues. (Even Sharlto Copley with his “one-performance-fits-all” approach does good work here. And that’s saying a lot!)
It filled up our senses. Like a night in the forest.
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