Words do not exist to accurately portray how much I freakin’ love Free Fire. There’s a bunch of badass actors, a gritty 70’s aesthetic that is cool as hell and the film wastes absolutely no time in getting down to business. Unless you’re of the opinion that violence should not be tolerated on screen in a movie (or TV show) then I have a hard time struggling to see why anyone wouldn’t like this.
The premise is simple — in late 70’s Boston two gangs meet in an abandoned warehouse to complete the sale of firearms. Naturally both gangs are bit apprehensive and go into the exchange on high alert. And why wouldn’t they be? Anything can go down in an abandon warehouse. Complicating matters is the fact that lackeys from both sides — Stevo (Sam Riley) and Harry (Jack Reynor) — got into a fight the previous night. Once they spot each other at the warehouse all hell breaks loose.
Once the guns come out and the firing begins it never stops and this is where I think Wheatley and the amazing cast all really shine. In an action movie the action sequences are a big deal and many times this involves shoot outs. Part of what makes this moments exciting is that they come in small bursts in comparison to the rest of the movie. Depending on the film they can sometimes serve as a treat for sitting through the rest. When your entirely film is essentially one long, drawn out shoot out you have to work extra hard to make it interesting. Fortunately Wheatley has no issues in this department.
Since Wheatley burst on the seen nearly a decade ago (can you believe it’s been that long?!) one that that immediately jumped out was his sense of style. With every film he’s done, whether it be Kill List, A Field in England, Free Fire or whatever, he’s always had his style come through. Free Fire, probably more than any of his other films, relies on that style. Every moment of the shootout is presented and staged in an interesting way. There’s cool set pieces and Wheatley makes great use of the space. There’s a particularly great scene where a van runs over someone’s head that is wonderfully done — the Blu-ray special features actually go over this effect in pretty great detail.
Wheatley also uses great pacing. That might sound simple since the movie is a shoot out the whole time, but I think that actually makes the pacing more difficult. There are slight breaks that occur when people have to reload or someone is trying to move from point A to point B. It’s important to make sure these moments don’t linger too long, but also make sure they linger long enough. It’s a little thing that serves a huge purpose.
The cast, which includes Sharlto Copley, Brie Larson, Michael Smiley, Babou Ceesay, Armie Hammer and Cillian Murphy in addition to Riley and Reynor, is on point from start to finish. Mixed with all the nonstop action is some great comedy. Every moment of this film is littered with witty one-liners and snappy comebacks. The moments between Copley and Murphy are especially great. The two character butt heads constantly because they have personalities that couldn’t be any further apart. Copley is so great at playing annoying jerks that can’t help but be pushy. He’s like a demented version of Rhys Darby and I mean that in the best way possible.
The films Blu-ray is a must because, well, the movie is awesome. There aren’t a ton of special features but there are two really good ones. There’s an audio commentary with Wheatley, Murphy and Reynor that’s awesome. And then there is a making of feature that runs about 15 minutes or so. This features interviews or at least snippets with most of the cast and goes over that aforementioned head crushing effect.
Free Fire is a blast from start to finish. A great cast comes together under the guide of a great director to create one of the best action movies in recent years. Go ahead and chalk this one up as another huge notch in the belt of Ben Wheatley.
Free Fire is available now on Blu-ray from Lionsgate.
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