Free Fire – Movie Review
Rating: C+ (Above Average)
Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Elevation Pictures
The concept behind Free Fire holds a lot of promise and Ben Wheatley certainly directs it with a certain amount of flourish. However, there is something almost juvenile about the way this story is written and the film does not do much to create the necessary excitement. The influences from classic westerns and Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs can certainly be felt with its singular location and constant gunplay. Yet there is a distance from the characters and the constant shooting gets tiring rather quickly. Teenagers will almost instantly fall in love with the sly script and action set-pieces, but for those who have experienced it all before, frequent yawns will be had.
The best aspect of Free Fire comes from its actors. Wheatley has assembled an international collection of thespians and each of them dig into the roles with the proper relish. The stand-out is Brie Larson as the lone female gunslinger in this band of misfits. The biggest laugh comes courtesy of Larson and it’s not even a word of dialogue. Sharlto Copley delights in portraying one of the more unhinged members of the group, truly emphasizing the 1970s setting and slightly exaggerating his native South African accent. Armie Hammer displays the necessary suaveness and coolness during the film’s intense situation. The other actors also somewhat succeed in elevating their thinly written roles.
Profanity is one of the trickiest elements to write in a screenplay without sounding forced. Writers like Quentin Tarantino, David Mamet, Kevin Smith and the Coen Brothers have mastered the art of peppering their dialogue with salty language. Wheatley and his usual collaborator Amy Jump merely drop the f-bombs to emphasis the criminal nature of their characters, but they lack the proper weight. Free Fire feels entirely like a college student’s first screenplay, awkwardly throwing in swearing just to make the script appear more mature. It never earns the right to use these curse words and the film suffers for it.
Two thirds of the film is devoted to the characters shooting at each other. Gun heavy action scenes are hard to make exciting. There needs to be a proper level of tension and character investment, neither of which are in Free Fire. The film spends far too much time on making them look cool without properly delving into why we should care about their fates. Wheatley certainly gives the direction his all, but it becomes too repetitive rather quickly. A couple of clever twists and turns are occasionally thrown in, but not enough to break up the mundanity of the action. For one hour, we get characters shooting at each other with not enough creative choreography to make the inevitable end worthwhile.
One can imagine the excitement of walking on set and putting this entire set-piece together. One is instantly reminded of Mad Max: Fury Road, a strong technical accomplishment that was merely about going from Point A to Point B. Free Fire sticks firmly in Point A and many a great film has made strong use of a simple location. However, it gets tiring seeing the gun shots ricochet off this dreary looking warehouse and it’s easy to get lost of who is on what team and who is shooting at each other. Free Fire will almost certainly inspire a host of potentially better imitators.