Free Fire is pure, unfiltered, madness. Ben Wheatley (Kill List, High Rise) has been one of my favorite directors to watch since his first film Kill List (which I had the chance to see at TIFF Midnight Madness, back in 2011). While those films were disturbing, Free Fire is a good time all around. Yes, people get shot, set on fire, ran over, etc; (I’m not making a very good case for it not being disturbing am I?) but it’s handled in such a way that it just comes across as hilarious. The whole concept of the movie is ridiculous. You’re dealing with a bunch of morons, with guns, in a warehouse; and things just get progressively worse for everyone as the film goes on.
Set in Boston, 1978. Stevo (Sam Riley) and Bernie (Enzo Cilenti) are on their way to a warehouse to meet up with IRA members Chris (Cillian Murphy) and Frank (Michael Smiley) for a weapons deal. Stevo mentions to Bernie that he was beat up the night before by the cousin of a woman he admitted to abusing (you can see where this is going). Justine (Brie Larson) and Ord (Armie Hammer) the “representatives” meet up with everyone and head to the warehouse for the transaction. Once inside, they meet up with the dealers; Martin (Babou Ceesay), Gordon (Noah Taylor), Harry (Jack Reynor) and Vernon (Sharlto Copley). It’s here that Stevo realizes Harry was the one that beat him up, which causes all hell to break loose between the two groups. Nobody knows who they’re shooting at or why they’re even doing it in the first place, but it’s hilarious for us to watch as the carnage unfolds; and to say anymore would spoil the fun. The cast all have their standout moments, but Sharlto Copley absolutely steals the show as Vernon. He’s unhinged and hilarious as the main arms dealer. There’s a scene where he makes himself some cardboard armor to use in battle that had me (and the crowd) in stitches. The script is sharp and expertly directed by Ben. It keeps you engaged considering it’s just a bunch of people shooting at each other in a room. I will have to say the only issue I had with the film was the gunfire (I know, it’s a movie about a shootout), but I figured I should mention it. It wasn’t until later on that it started to grate on me. There’s bullets ricocheting off walls, guns being fired constantly. It’s all really well done. It just honestly could have been that the volume was cranked up too high in the theater, but I had a bit of a headache by the end. It was a small price to pay for an overall great movie.
With sequels, remakes, and superhero movies a dime a dozen, Free Fire is a breath of fresh air. It’s unique and keeps you engaged considering it takes place in one area for the entire run time. The cast is remarkable and Ben Wheatley once again cements himself as a great director. Definitely check this one out. – NVJ
Free Fire opens in theaters this Friday, April 21st.