2017 – UK
Director: Ben Wheatley
Starring: Sharlto Copley, Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, Armie Hammer, Jack Reynor, Michael Smiley, Sam Riley, Noah Taylor
Words: Josh Senior
Ben Wheatley is fast becoming the best British cult filmmaker of our times, and with Free Fire he shows no signs of stopping anytime soon. Hot off the back of dystopian caper High-Rise in 2016, he returns with this scaled down action comedy. Which is wickedly funny and as can be expected of a Wheatley film, gleefully bloody.
The basic premise is this, a gun deal between two gangs in a 70’s era Boston warehouse gone wrong. Which then leads to a mass shoot out, a free for all, and a pile of dead bodies. The comparisons to City on Fire and Reservoir Dogs are obviously there, but this film is far cleverer than either of the latter, with a razor sharp script and ingenious cinematography thrown in for good measure. What little soundtrack there is, is replaced with diegetic sound as bullets ricochet off metal and concrete and the only sound that dominates are the cries and groans of people as they get shot, or return fire.
This is all played for huge laughs and the star studded cast clearly had a lot of fun filming this, their chemistry and charisma spills onto the screen seamlessly.
For a film about a shoot-out it derives its comedy from its humanity. These crooks and villains are not action ready warriors, who dodge bullets and have endless amounts of stamina. The hilarity is watching each character slowly get weighed down by multiple bullet wounds and lack of blood as they all crawl around in the dirt, each attempting to reach their intended goal. Sharlto Copley’s Vern is willing to crawl through glass to reach for a briefcase of money, and Cillian Murphy’s Chris goes to similar depraving lengths to save his friends and make away with the guns he needs.
Free Fire is exactly as you’d expect it to be, a fantastically put together 90 minute blast of entertainment laced with the wit and gore we now come to expect from Ben Wheatley. He has proved himself to be one of our very best directors working today, a man who can try his hand in any genre whether that be; the gangster movie Down Terrace, the dark and foreboding Kill List, the black comedy of Sightseers, the surreal and mind-bending A Field in England or the nightmarish High-Rise. Each stands apart as an individually iconic piece of work which then knits together into the tapestry of Wheatley’s ever expanding collection of stunningly well made, and impressive independent films. Of which Free Fire is now the jewel in the crown. Kiss kiss, bang bang.