★★★★ Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire is a very British action movie loaded with wicked humour and plenty of surprises.
If you find yourself a bit burned out after a longer than it needed to be blockbusters, this is the perfect regular feature for you. As the title suggests, no movie longer than 90 minutes will be covered, so sit back and relax for approximately 90 minutes or less.
Set in 1970s Boston (but shot in Brighton), Free Fire owes a creative debt to the likes of Reservoir Dogs, but instead of being sub-Tarantino, Wheatley forges a fresh take on a well-worn genre. Chris (Cillian Murphy) and Frank (Michael Smiley) lead a group of misfits looking to buy some guns. Once they arrive and meet their fixer, Justine (Brie Larson), and her counterpart for the sellers, Ord (Armie Hammer), they enter the warehouse for what should be a simple transaction.
Naturally, if everything ran smoothly and they went their respective ways, there wouldn’t be much of a movie. Things swiftly get out of control with the two sides quickly trade bullets. Coming in at a lean 81 minutes, Free Fire masterfully shifts between the divided cast members giving every cast member multiple moments to shine. Sharlto Copley as the obnoxiously charged Vernon steals the show; he’s an awful human being with Copley fully committing to the role with gusto.
If you’re expecting a John Woo style action movie, you’ll be disappointed. Free Fire is cut from the same cloth as Resivour Dogs (comparisons are unavoidable) as a character-driven, and darkly funny crime caper. Before Call Me By Your Name, I can’t claim to be a huge fan of Armie Hammer. He did well in Lone Ranger not to laugh at whatever it was Johnny Depp was doing in that movie. Aided by a snazzy wardrobe, beard, and a laid-back approach to being a raging psychopath, Hammer has charisma and charm to spare.
Since his feature debut with Kill List, Ben Wheatley has become a prolific and continuously exciting filmmaker. I adored Sightseers; I still don’t know what to make of A Field In England or High-Rise, but I liked them, and he did some great work helming two episodes of Peter Capaldi’s first run on Doctor Who. To be fair, Capaldi’s first series as the infamous Time Lord was a bumpy ride, but it’s not without some high points.
A twisted rom-com, a historical psychological horror, a dystopian drama, nobody could accuse Wheatley of being pigeonholed, and he’s clearly having a ball flipping between genres. Wheatley recently wrapped his next project; the uniquely titled Colin You Anus features Charles Dance, Sam Reily, Joe Cole, and Neil Maskell will be released later this year.
Snappy quotable dialogue, knockout performances, and realistic action sequences, Free Fire is easily Ben Wheatly’s most accessible film, and it’s a bloody hoot.