By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)
Acclaimed British director Ben Wheatley (Kill List, Sightseers, High Rise) brought his latest film to this year’s SXSW. Free Fire, which features an extraordinary cast portraying a motley mix of colorful characters, is a classic “shoot ’em up” flick that delivers plenty of great lines and hearty laughs. The story/plot is relatively simple, and the settings are minimal, but the solid writing by Amy Jump and Ben Wheatley offers plenty of amusing fodder for this wild assortment of villains. This film does not pretend to be anything that it’s not and doesn’t promise to offer audiences anything, but the volatile and entertaining mix of machismo, attitudes, bullets, blood and dark comedy.
The year is 1978 and a group of gangsters are meeting in an abandoned warehouse for an arms deal. The money and the weapons are both available, so everything should go smoothly. However, because some personal grudges are also on the table, things go awry rather quickly, words and punches are exchanged and things soon devolve into a shoot out free-for-all. It develops into an “every person for himself” situation with everyone scrambling for the briefcase of money and their own survival.
With intense action and hilarious dialogue, Ben Wheatley and Amy Jump have made an engrossing and enjoyable movie that fans of action-comedies are sure to enjoy. The writing and direction are great, but the performances by the cast definitely make it all work so well. The movie features excellent work by Brie Larson, Armie Hammer, Cillian Murphy, Jack Reynor, Babou Ceesay, Enzo Cilenti, Sam Riley, Michael Smiley, Noah Taylor, Patrick Bergin, Tom Davis, and Mark Monero. However, it is Sharlto Copely’s performance as the uber-colorful Vernon that often steals the show. He brings a hilarious element of absurdity and ineptitude that earns plenty of well-deserved laughs.
Now, as I stated above, Free Fire doesn’t promise to provide any deeply profound examinations of humanity, but in some very subtle and some not-so-subtle ways it does offer some commentaries about pride, greed, and wrath. However, Wheatley and Jump do so with the main purpose of delivering thrilling action and well-written and performed comedy. Free Fire is literally a comedic blast and its audiences are in for a great time.