A gun deal goes horribly wrong and results in an extended shoot out between rival gangs in Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire.
My quick summary of the story above is pretty much all there is to it. The gun deal goes badly and the two sides take shots at one another until the film ends. Stretching out an action scene into the majority of a film’s running time could go wrong in so many days but this film manages to remain largely entertaining throughout.
This is accomplished by the actors involved. None of the characters are especially deep because there’s no time to develop them before the shooting starts but the actors give them so much personality that it disguises how underdeveloped they are really well. Wheatley assembles a great cast with Michael Smiley, Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, Armie Hammer, Sharlto Copley, Jack Reynor and several others all having memorable roles. Each character has one memorable defining trait that informs their personality. Brie Larson’s Justine is a sophisticated, no nonsense character who is able to deal with the sexism of the 70s setting, Armie Hammer’s Ord is a well groomed hired gun, Sharlto Copley’s Vernon is a coward and so on. Even if you don’t learn the names of the characters then you could describe them using those traits and people would be able to understand what you meant.
There is a drawback to the underdeveloped characterisation. It’s impossible to root for anyone as they all feel expendable and there’s no real sense of who “should” survive the conflict. I imagine this is the point but I found that this lifted me out of the film eventually just because I was watching mindless violence involving people I had no investment in. This made the novelty of a long action sequence wear off after a while and the last third of the film drag somewhat.
Despite this the script is really sharp with some really funny one liners and brutal action to keep things going. Some of the violence is played for laughs and the whole film is treated with a light touch. It isn’t always entertaining but I could see this film being something that is often quoted.
The action is really well handled. Most of the film takes place in a single location which normally limits the scope of the action but the setting becomes a character in itself with lots of hazards and places for the characters to take cover as well as prepare an ambush. There’s enough variety to keep momentum through most of the film and the gunshots sound effects being incredibly loud was a really nice touch. Emphasising the sounds lets the audience know how powerful the weapons are and keeps the stakes high even though the characters being repeatedly hit and growing progressively more injured is played for laughs. The level of danger can be taken seriously and it’s a fun contrast.
This review is really short because there isn’t a lot to say about the film. Enjoyment will be mined entirely from your ability to enjoy what amounts to a very long action sequence. The action is competently executed and the characters are memorable enough with their single defining personality trait. I had a lot of fun with this but the novelty was wearing off for me by the end. If you’re looking for well developed characters and a deep story look elsewhere but if you just want to be immersed in the chaotic lunacy then this will be a great time for you.
- competently handled action
- actors that make their characters memorable
- a well used single location
- quotable one liners
- the novelty of the long action scene wearing off by the end
- a lack of investment in the underdeveloped characters