Free Fire Review

Over the last few years, there have been many new promising and unconventional directors that have ascended into the limelight.; Ilya Naishuller, Robert Eggers, Adam Wingard, and more provocatively, Ben Wheatley. After his initial breakout hits in the UK with Down Terrace and Kill List, Wheatley received international attention by his 2015 dystopian thriller High-Rise. His style can be best described as avant-garde; unorthodox or experimental. The ever-changing genres of his projects, like a diner that frequently changes the menu, brings interesting analysis and reception to the table. Later this month, he’ll return once again with a new comedy-thriller, Free Fire.

In a meeting arranged by Justine (Brie Larson) and Ord (Armie Hammer), two Irish gangsters (Cillian Murphy, Michael Smiley) buy guns from Vernon (Sharlto Copley), a South African arms dealer. When bullets are fired after a disparity between the two parties, each side engages in a fight for survival. The stakes become high as each person wants to leave alive with the briefcase of money located in the centre. Sam Riley, Noah Taylor, Jack Reynor, Babou Ceesay and Enzo Cilenti also join the carnage.

Tightly packed into its single-setting location, Free Fire’s 90 minute runtime flows seamlessly from start to finish, without so much as a break from the mayhem. The narrative cuts between each group as they hide in every corner of the warehouse, which helps prevent the film from droning along as a single continuous scene. The situation harks back to Tarantino’s debut hit Reservoir Dogs, which also presented a bunch of criminals aggressively at odds with each other inside a an confined area, but the film also delivers an ounce of ‘70s flavour inspired by last year’s The Nice Guys.

It is not far from the truth that Free Fire takes its aesthetics from grittier ‘70s action thrillers, but the substance itself is inspired by more recent, faithful approaches to action, such as 2014’s John Wick. But while that film was precise and stylised with regards to its firearms choreography, Free Fire demonstrates the trouble of weapons handling. The gunfire is ear-piercingly loud, there are no quick-shots, and characters don’t walk off injuries; instead forced to drag themselves throughout the remainder of the film. Much of the physical humour comes through in the guise of each character having terrible aim, with many of them struggling to hit one another out in the open.

While the rest of the cast is sharp and on point with their individual roles (excluding perhaps Cillian Murphy who is a little dry), Sharlto Copley is a show-stealer as Vernon the arms-dealer, a man who was “misdiagnosed as a child genius and never got over it”. After featuring in such comical roles as in Hardcore Henry, The A-Team and District 9, Copley once again exhibits his comedic value in timing, intonation and physique. Every single line he delivers received an uproar of laughter in the audience, and his comprehension at retaining a complete seriousness to his performance swiftly established him as the star of the film.

With Ben Wheatley having already marked his territory in abstract, barebones filmmaking, Free Fire continues a trend of lightly-humoured thrillers to which he is accustomed. It’s clear-cut, electrifying, and brimmed with action that hits you at an instinctual level. The film releases in UK theatres on 31st March, and it would be wise to catch this while its showing.

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