Written by: Victoria Alexander | April 21st, 2017
The ultimate shoot-out with highly original characters.
Ben Wheatley’s FREE FIRE is for people who appreciate innovative filmmaking and do not require a step-by-step traditional set-up, explaining who everyone is, their hopes and dreams for a better tomorrow and their relationship to each other. Exposition be damned. By now, audiences should be able to quickly grasp what is happening.
The first thing to note is the clothes. The clothes looked dated to the mid-1970s and it looks like Boston. A group of low-life criminals are getting ready to meet up with another group of criminals. The first “gang” to arrive is led by Irishman Chris (Cillian Murphy) and his partner Frank (Michael Smiley). With a couple of out-of-control hired hands, Stevo (Sam Riley) and Bernie (Enzo Cilenti), they have a suitcase full of money to buy guns for the IRA.
They are on the waterfront to meet South African arms dealers Vernon (Sharlto Copley) and has partner, ex-Black Panther, Martin (Babou Ceesay). This warehouse meeting has been brokered for the buyers by Justine (Brie Larsen), who has, apparently, done this many times before. Her distain for Vernon, who is a self-styled maniac, is evident.
Handling the negotiations for the South Africans is Ord (Armie Hammer), a dapper man ruining his good looks with a bushy beard. Like Justine, Ord is there to make sure the transaction goes smoothly, they get their commission and go home.
Trouble starts almost immediately when Chris is told by Vernon that the type of rifles they ordered have been switched. Vernon’s explosive behavior foretells how the hand-off of the rifles will probably go wrong. Stevo has turned up badly beaten from the night before. When he notices that the guy who beat him up is part of Vernon’s crew, he tries to stay hidden but Frank insists he earn his $100 and start unloading the crates of rifles.
Vernon’s foot soldiers are Harry (Jack Reynor) and Gordon (Noah Taylor). When Harry sees Stevo, he immediately goes berserk. Seems Stevo behaved very badly toward Harry’s sister. Vernon tries to settle the disagreement by asking Stevo to apologize. Instead, guns come out and all hell breaks loose. Apparently, everyone came equipped with their very own stockpile of guns.
The shooting starts and doesn’t stop. And this is the way FREE FIRE goes, with no sympathetic character emerging. And why should there be someone with a conscious? These are criminals who are all attempting to kill each other. Indeed, there are two fractions but there is no loyalty among hired hands and a suitcase full of cash is in the middle of the melee.
Written by Ben Wheatley and Amy Jump and directed by Wheatley, FREE FIRE is a glorious non-stop shoot-out. and Jump were also the film’s editors. (They didn’t do the cinematography, that was Laurie Rose, or the craft services.) The dialogue is witty and each character has a distinctive personality, with Copley so indulgently over-the-top menacing he holds your complete attention. You are left wanting more of him.
There are clever twists and turns and with this cast, this highly original caper is highly entertaining. If you are looking for a lost love romance, characters who have principles and “arc”, FREE FIRE is not for you.
If you want to see the now standard shoot-out done for the entire length of the movie and nothing else, go see FREE FIRE.
Member of Las Vegas Film Critics Society: www.lvfcs.org/.
Victoria Alexander lives in Las Vegas, Nevada and answers every email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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