Published on April 21st, 2017 | by Ian M. Woodington0
At a rundown warehouse in 1970’s Boston, Justine (Brie Larson) and Ord (Armie Hammer) are brokering a deal between a South African arms dealer (Sharlto Copley) and members of the IRA (Cillian Murphy & Michael Smiley). Tensions flare almost immediately between the two sides and an inevitable battle of wills and gunplay ensues when two members of their entourage take decisive action on a fresh grudge from the night before.
It may say Scorsese’s producing, but Free Fire definitely smacks more of a Tarantino-influenced affair and I can think of no better example, in recent years anyway, that proves the lasting legacy of his still awe-inspiring debut, Reservoir Dogs. After years of making deliberately obtuse films (High Rise, A Field in England), Ben Wheatley has finally made something accessible, but unfortunately, Free Fire can’t pack the same visceral punch and narrative competence as the films that it takes influence from. I’m having flashbacks to about this time last year when I reviewed another film from A24, Green Room. I walked out of Free Fire in much the same manner; on a high, feeling satisfied from what appeared to be something unique and notable. As the hours have passed and I’m preparing my summation, the sentiment has all but vanished and I’m wanting of something with a little more substance. Granted, an 90 minute runtime can only accommodate so much, but I have to ask: could all that time spent crawling around in the dust and the rubble, as realistic a light that it may or may not shine on the authenticity of an actual shootout, have been used instead to get inside our characters motivations, driving us to really care about their fates? There’s no doubt that from its style and attitude, there was the potential for this to be the Reservoir Dogs for a new generation, but ultimately it’s just not a very memorable experience.
What will save Free Fire from obscurity is a cast that, despite having little plot to work with, is firing on all cylinders. An exemplary job is done from Oscar winners on down to character actors whose faces you know, but names you don’t. There isn’t one weak link in the chain and their performances have an excellent balance of toughness and levity that grounds them just enough to allow for suspension of disbelief. I might chastise Ben Wheatley as a storyteller, but there’s no doubt that he has an ear for great dialogue and fine judgement on the performers to deliver it.
2 and ½ out of 5
Free Fire by Angele Colageo