Free Fire Review


Director: Ben Wheatley
Starring: Brie Larson, Sharlto Copley, Armie Hammer, Cillian Murphy, Jack Reynor, Micheal Smiley

Ben Wheatley is arguably one of the best British directors working today. Scrap that, he’s one of the best directors working today. Kill List, Sightseers, A Field in England and most recently, High-Rise, have all be critical successes and shown what a talented director he is. Most of his previous films have fallen somewhere in the horror genre, yet Free Fire sees the director exploring new territory, and Wheatley has proven that he’s so slouch when it comes to directing an action flick, all whilst managing to keep his rather dark sense of humour.

Free Fire’s premise is a very simple one. It’s mostly based in one location – a warehouse in an undisclosed location – in which a gun deal goes incredibly wrong. Cillian Murphey’s Chris and Micheal Smiley’s Frank have made a trip over to the US from Ireland to purchase some weapons from Sharlto Copley’s eccentric and self-assured gun dealer, Vernon.

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The Free Fire cast, firing on all cylinders

That’s not what he ordered.

Everything goes terribly awry when it turns out that one of Frank’s men had an incident with one of Vernon’s goons the night before. Punches are swung, and eventually, the bullets fly, and the rest of the film plays out in this warehouse, with a lot of people crawling around on the floor, getting shot, and generally being rather unpleasant to one another.

Free Fire is easily Wheatley’s funniest film. I personally found Sightseers to be darkly comic, and this film has a similar tone, yet it much more laugh out loud funny than anything Wheatley has done before. It easily passed the six laughs test (hello to Jason Isaacs) within the first five minutes. The real highlight has to be Sharlto Copley’s Vernon, who’s unable to keep his mouth shut, even when bullets are flying, has awful dress sense – incidentally, I loved taking in the atrocious 70s suits and hair in this film – and even worse marksmanship. He’s one of the best/worst gun dealers I’ve ever seen on screen and had the audience in fits of hysterics.

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Sharlto Copley and Jack Reynor in Free Fire

I’m not driving a fucking pizza delivery service!

I also loved the fact that he kept his strong South African accent, although, my girlfriend did turn to me to ask where he was meant to be from. “Is he Dutch?” she asked. An easy mistake to make. Cillian Murphy is excellent as usual, and is actually the most sympathetic character in the whole film, even though he’s purchasing rifles probably with the intention of bringing them back to the UK to cause some havoc.

Then we have the beautiful Armie Hammer. I have a real soft spot for him, and I really do believe he should be cast as Batman. He’d make a wonderful Bruce Wayne. He plays Ord, who’s obviously seen military action before. He’s kind of the middle man, and along with Murphy’s Chris, is the only man in this gun fight who manages to keep his cool. He has some brilliant one-liners, and I appreciated the way they poked fun at his incredible good looks. The moment when he takes a moment to check his hair in the van’s wing-mirror is inspired.

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Told you I don’t work with anybody who’s carrying a loaded weapon.

Brie Larson plays Justine, and there’s a lot more to her than meets the eye. I was really glad to see her get to do a little more acting after having seen Kong: Skull Island. I just felt her talents were a little wasted in that movie. In Free Fire, like the whole cast, she’s firing on all cylinders (excuse the pun), and demonstrates what a truly talented actor she is.

However, one problem I did have with the film was that I kept on thinking that I’ve seen this done before. Reservoir Dogs is the obvious comparison to make, yet there are also echoes of some of Martin Scorsese’s work, which isn’t really a surprise since he was an executive producer on the film. Not only was I reminded of Reservoir Dogs, but also Django Unchained and Inglorious Basterds. Free Fire could have very easily been made by Tarantino at his peak, but that’s not necessity a criticism.

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Sharlto Copley, Brie Larson and Armie Hammer in a gun deal that goes wrong

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Unfortunately, it did play on my mind a bit. I’m used to seeing Wheatley do something very different and original with each film. Free Fire is by no means a ‘misfire’, yet it is his most formulaic film to date.

Having said that, I loved every minute of Free Fire. I laughed, winced, gasped… The only thing I didn’t do was cry, yet that wasn’t really what the film set out to do. The cast was superb, the script was witty, the archaic jazzy score added tension, and the action was grotesque at times. Free Fire is the best action comedy I’ve seen in a long time and demonstrates what a talented and versatile director Ben Wheatley is.

Listen to our thoughts on our official podcast, Small Screen’s Film Club.

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