Although it's not your classic gang rivalry story, this action packed shoot out will have you laughing throughout- a thoroughly enjoyable watch.
Acclaimed British director of Sightseers, Kill List and High Rise, Ben Wheatley, has returned with his quirky action-comedy, Free Fire, which rounded up the 2016 London Film Festival. Boasting a stellar cast of Cillian Murphy, Brie Larson, Armie Hammer, Sam Riley, and Sharlto Copley, to name a few, the 1970s Boston set film is in a similar vein to Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs.
The key events of the film kick off pretty quickly when an arms deal between two gangs in an abandoned warehouse goes wrong. With a simple premise, the entirety of the film consists of hundreds of gun shots and nearly the same amount of one-liners. The eccentric characters who, together are odd group of misfits, fill most of the scenes with insulting jokes, the best of which come from South Africa born actor Sharlto Copley, who plays Vernon, a character of the same origins. The witty, appearance conscious wheeler-dealer delivers some of the funniest lines of the 90 minute run time.
Despite the presence of Oscar winner Brie Larson, who plays Justine (and is never allowed to forget that she is the only woman present), no performances are particularly stand out, being that their roles don’t really give them a chance to show their performance mettle. However, their roles don’t require this at all, as from the very beginning it’s clear that Free Fire is nothing more than a bit of fun. Everyone knows that they’re there for comedic effect and not much more, but everyone performs well in these roles to the extent it allows them to.
Despite similarities to the classic Tarantino scripts which manage to perfect the balance between humour and realism, Free Fire doesn’t quite do this to the same effect. Although this not something which massively lessens the quality of the film- as it can’t be denied that it’s taking its own path which is bound to become a British Cult Classic- it’s still not quite the same. In the heart of the action, it’s impossible to not be weirdly mesmerised by the completely unchoreographed sporadic firing of bullets, which everyone manages to get involved with. It’s totally gripping at the time, but when things calm down, it’s pretty clear that there’s not much happening here other than the same thing over and over again. After we see things kick off a few times, it loses its allure and seems a bit aimless.
Nevertheless, despite these shortcoming, Free Fire still manages to be unique in its own way, and stands out as something really quite original. It should be praised for not trying to be something it’s not, but rather accepts the fact that it is a 90 minute shoot out which is a great laugh. Who knew we could get so much enjoyment from something so simple? The classic gangster shootout really never gets old.
Free Fire (2016), directed by Ben Wheatley was shown as part of the 2016 BFI London Film Festival. Further information about the festival can be found here.