A year after the dystopian film High-Rise, director Ben Wheatley teams up with an ensemble cast. Something with a straightforward narrative yet ambitious style. Something featuring characters who have a loud mouth, a quick wit, yet terrible aim. Free Fire is one of those movies where it should have work as a thirty-minute short film than a ninety-minute feature length film. What Mad Max: Fury Road did for the open road, The Breakfast Club for the school, and Gravity for outer space, Free Fire sets entirely at an abandoned warehouse. I wish it captivated me more than it should have.
The year is 1978. Two IRA specialists—Chris (Cillian Murphy) and Frank (Michael Smiley)—meet up with Ord (Armie Hammer), Justine (Brie Larson), among others outside a warehouse in Boston. They are trying to settle a deal with buying guns from South African arms dealer Vern (Sharlto Copley) and former Black Panther Martin (Babou Ceesay). Tensions begin to rise between the two groups of people, resulting in a massive shootout.
Wheatley succeeds with bringing the 1970s culture to life. With the crazy hairstyles, sideburns, outfits, and the music ranging from Creedence Clearwater Revival to John Denver. The fast-paced editing of the warehouse shootout makes it seem as if you are in the middle of it all. The amount of violence, profanity and dark humor is almost reminiscent to the films of Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese (who is also the executive producer of Free Fire). Every actor is having a blast here (particularly Copley and Hammer stealing the show), shooting it up and exchanging some great dialogue, even going as far as taking part in some dangerous stunts. However, they hardly breathe any life into their characters. By the end, making the audience care less on who gets killed.
While far from being A24’s best film, it’s impossible not to have any fun with Free Fire. However, the tension falters a bit through the second act. The bullets don’t stop flying until it’s over. I can’t listen to John Denver the same way ever again.