Bullets and Barbs Traded in Free Fire
Director: Ben Wheatley Starring: Cillian Murphy, Sharlto Copley, Brie Larson, Jack Reynor, Michael Smiley Running Time: 90 minutes
A high stakes deal between criminals. Clashes of personality, honour among thieves. A job that goes souther than south. And lots and lots of gun fire. If Free Fire was actually made during the decade in which it’s set, the 1970s, then it’s not hard to imagine its ultra-macho story being played considerably more straightfaced. Ben Wheatley and co-writer and co-editor Amy Jump on the other hand, choose to draw out the crime drama tropes to a near-breaking point, not past the point of absurdity but stopping just shy of it, resulting in a madcap action comedy that winds up its entertainingly clashing cast and then sets them against each other in a shoot-out that lasts for over an hour.
It would be very easy to look at the distinguishing feature of Free Fire as a gimmick, and one that could wear out its welcome very quickly. “What if we make a whole movie that’s just a shoot-out in a warehouse?” sounds like the kind of question that a plethora of uninspired film students were asking themselves in the wake of seeing Reservoir Dogs in the early nineties and in lesser hands, the action of Free Fire could be hollow director posturing of Boondockian proportions. Wheatley and Jump thankfully keep the characters and story as simple as the premise itself, producing a grounded film that makes its extended shoot-out feel like a natural conclusion to the opening set up. As its colourful cast meet each other, it doesn’t take long to believe that they would really, really want to riddle each other with bullets.