Did Somebody Say Guns?
I was worried about this film, mainly ’cause I thought I was gonna miss it. I got there though, I always get my man.
Free Fire is the new film by director Ben Wheatley, who has garnered acclaim for his many well-received pictures over the past few years, including Sightseers and High Rise. It’s not uncommon for the director to add strange, disturbing or trippy elements to his films, making them stand-out among the independent scene. My first and only impression of this film going in was, “it’s an hour-and-a-half shootout”, which could be both amazing and tedious. The idea was fresh, that’s fer sure, but I wasn’t sure if Free Free was gonna seal the deal or miss its mark.
Damn, I’m getting good at those.
A schtick that has been done time and time again, Free Fire takes place in one warehouse, as an arms deal goes fatally wrong in 70s Boston between two gangs, literally leading to an hour-and-a-half long shootout. With a remarkably small cast, it really feels more like a film driven more by performance than plot, as, let’s be honest, the plot’s thinner than a 45 year-old PE teacher who COULD have gone pro, but didn’t because of that crushing ankle injury that put him out of action for an entire season. After that, the offers, the scholarships, began to dry up fast and he was forced from dead-end job to dead-end job throughout his 20s and 30s, never feeling the fire that he did when he was on that pitch. When he was nearing the end of his 30s, he settled down with his wife and had a few kids, took a job at the local primary school and didn’t look back. But Martha’s filing for divorce soon, and she’s taking the kids…. Martha….
Ummm….eerrrrrrrrr…… Free Fire! Oh yes! Indeed, the plot is about as lush as you’d expect from a film whose entire marketing strategy was “GUNS, YES, THERE IS GUNS. GUNS.” However, this leads to the stellar performances being focused on that much more. The bigger names in this flick are Cillian Murphy, who plays a killer Scarecrow, Oscar-winner Brie Larson and former Lone Ranger Armie Hammer. Now, while I, for one, don’t see the aesthetically-pleasing factor of Cillian Murphy (his face has an unsettling amount of curves), it’s undeniable that he puts in a goodun for this. As IRA dude Chris, he serves as the film’s protagonist? I think? Depends on who you root for. On the other side of the gunfight is the criminally-underrated Sharlto Copley, frequenter of Neil Blomkamp and, in my opinion, this generation’s 90s Nicholas Cage. Like he does in anything he’s in, Copley goes all out to put in a crazy asshole performance like no other. It may help that I’m a big fan of his.
We’ve also got the aforementioned Brie Larson and Armie Hammer. I haven’t yet seen Room, the film Larson won her Oscar for, so this was my first real idea of her as an actress, besides Jump Street. She played well, from what I saw. Her character was vastly underused, however, to the point where I thought she was dead for a good portion of the film, until she popped up again.
I gotta say, Armie Hammer is a prime example where the movie can make the actor. I, like many people, first saw him in 2013’s The Lone Ranger, a crap film. However, after The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and now this, I can’t say I’m not impressed with his overall charisma on screen. He really had the ability to liven up a scene whenever he showed up, with witty one-liners delivered with a well-needed aura of cool. We also had Jack Reynor, Michael Smiley (always a treat) and Sam Riley (I don’t like how that dude reminds me of Pete Doherty (what a scumbag)). And Tom Davis also showed up for a bit. Let’s show some love to Tom Davis.
I think the most surprising thing about Free Fire was probably the lack of jokes. While there were plenty of funny moments and one-liners, it wasn’t as laugh-a-minute as I was expecting, to be honest, playing it out more like a tense thriller at points. This is more a fault of advertising than filmmaking, however, as, like a sad amount of films these days, it was marketed a lot more lightly than it actually is. Regardless, however, we ain’t watching no Schindler’s List and it remained very entertaining throughout.
Alright, ALRIGHT. We can talk about the guns. From a film called Free Fire, with the tagline “All Guns. No Control” and a poster with loads of people holding guns on it, you’re gonna expect some shooting to be done. It’s a safe to say that this film definitely delivers on this front, with plenty of bullets being strewn throughout its 1hr 30min runtime. While I can never complain about too much action, I can definitely complain about too much of the same and, at points, I feel that’s where Free Fire trips up. As the film gets to the 20/30/40 minute mark, it begins to stagnate a bit, with the main goings on being “talk a little bit, shoot a little bit”. It does liven up, I must admit, but I don’t think they were doing enough to keep me fully engaged at points.
Overall, Free Fire was a fun film. It takes its admittedly silly plot and runs with it completely, ending up in a stylish romp with some brilliant performances and gunfights littered throughout. That being said, there is, I dare say, such thing as too many guns and, if any film does have too many guns, let’s be honest, it’s gonna be this one. Not to say, I didn’t enjoy it though, I left the film satisfied. I got what I came for with Free Fire; guns.
Lots of hugs, kisses and lacerations