Director: Ben Wheatley
Writers: Amy Jump (screenplay), Ben Wheatley (screenplay)
Stars: Sharlto Copley, Brie Larson, Armie Hammer, Cillian Murphy, Michael Smiley
Lacking a little in the story/plot department (there’s none to speak of), but more than making up for it with a cast bursting at the metaphorical seams with chemistry and also an enjoyable, relentless, maniacal theme of needless violence throughout. Ben Wheatley has directed easily one of my favourite films of the year so far with Free Fire.
As I mentioned it lacks majorly in terms of the story, the premise and development throughout are incredibly simple, but it somehow works and it’s a fun, enjoyable, hour and a half ride of pure escapism. It’s set in the 1970s, within the confines of a Boston warehouse, as two opposing groups meet for a botched arms deal. One side, consisting of IRA hard men, headed up by Chris and Frank (Cillian Murphy and Michael Smiley); and the other, a neurotic Rhodesian once mistaken for a child genius, his ex-Black Panther associate and a menacing hitman (actually can’t recall what he was?). The latter three going by the names Vernon, Martin and Ord respectively (Sharlto Copley, Babou Ceesay and Armie Hammer). Acting as go between of sorts and the architect behind the meeting is Justine (Brie Larsen).
The tension builds almost immediately as the Irish await a couple of their underlings arriving, before meeting with Ord, who’s obnoxious and dismissive taunting tone does nothing to alleviate matters. And it’s said underlings that act as the catalyst for the mayhem that ensues. Vernon, you see, is a bit of dodgy git and heightens the tension by trying to hoodwink the Irish, selling them the wrong guns and seemingly getting away with it too. Unfortunately for him though, underlings Stevo (Sam Riley) and Harry (Jack Reynor) come to blows after a freak double crossing of paths, the former glassing Harry’s young cousin the night before. When shots are then fired, the entire deal goes south and the warehouse soon turns into a war zone, the events literally playing out in slow-motion at one point to weirdly humorous effect.
At this point any notion of a plot goes out the window, the main objective appearing to be who’s claiming the briefcase packed with cash that’s dropped in no man’s land between the two warring parties. Vernon in particular can be heard repeatedly screaming about it in his almost humorously, high pitched, South African accent. Later he’s heard telling Ord, without a hint of irony, “What the fuck is wrong with you? How can you think about money in a time like this?”. To make matters worse, there’s a rat in their midst and a third party soon turns up in the form of a sniper, taking pot shots at the exposed bodies on the floor. This chaotic shootout continues on for what seems like the entire running time, with some intermittent ceasefires dotted throughout, and it was incredibly entertaining for a reason I can’t really put my finger on. Maybe it was just the mindlessness of it all.
The dialogue between the characters was a massive plus for this film. It was witty, realistic and hilarious at times as insults were hurled around and retorts quickly sent flying back. My favourite of these was perhaps Frank’s cracker to Ord, “Save it for your fucking autobiography”. The timing was absolutely perfect and the little laugh that rang out after only added to it. There was so many though that it’s honestly difficult to choose. There was also a cool use of background sound in this film and I’m not totally sure if this was done deliberately or not. But there was numerous times were characters could be heard continuing their conversations off camera, as attention turned away from them and this was also evident during the wild cross fire in the extended middle act. An example of this being the aforementioned screams about the briefcase from Vernon. It was a subtle little thing I noticed and liked it.
Another hugely enjoyable aspect was the real ensemble performance from the cast. As I mentioned before, I thought there was bucket loads of chemistry between them all and the combination of this and the well written dialogue made it a joy to watch. Cillian Murphy, Brie Larsen, Armie Hammer and Sharlto Copley were all excellent here as they went to town on each other. Larsen in particular with her flip flopping between sides and then eventual turn to lone wolf. Whilst the grudge match between Sam Riley and Jack Reynor’s characters that threaded it’s way throughout the story to a fitting conclusion was equally brilliant. I’ve left a few names out, but there honestly wasn’t one actor from the main core of characters that was poor in this. It really did remind me of a Tarantino film in a lot of ways, with the excellent dialogue, music at times and manner in which side characters were given relevance.
This film really should be enjoyed with as little spoilers as possible, so I’ll not prattle on any more with that in mind. There’s not much more I can say other than watch this bloody film. It’s entertaining and worth giving up an hour and half of your time to see.