Free Fire Movie Review
Win an Oscar. Then star in an obscure English action thriller. So goes Brie Larson, who for some reason is in Free Fire, a surprisingly fun film with a talented cast and a clever concept—the entire film revolves around a single shootout in an abandoned warehouse.
Pulsing with a Tarantino vibe through and through—albeit with less defined characters and a good-but-not-Tarantino-level screenplay—Free Fire plays out like a less memorable version of Reservoir Dogs. Restrained to a single location and fixated on a gun exchange gone wrong (instead of, in Dogs, an armed robbery), director and co-writer Ben Wheatley delivers an enjoyable experience where loyalties are always shifting, bullets are almost always flying, and where it isn’t guaranteed if any of the multitudes of characters will walk out alive.
Free Fire also feels like a refutation to Michael Bay; instead of throwing a dozen increasingly incoherent action sequences of epic proportions at you, Wheatley paces out just one over an hour and a half, offering up a calculated tale where each bullet has a purpose. Wheatley doesn’t always hit the bullseye, but Free Fire is thought out, properly paced and interesting through and through.
On the flip side, and what keeps Wheatley from achieving Tarantino levels (aside from the lack of perfectly mapped music and overt directorial talent), is that the characters, of which there are many, aren’t always very distinct. While Sharlto Copley, Armie Hammer, Cillian Murphy and of course Larson—who is the only woman in the movie—are recognizable, most of the rest of the cast blend in with one another, and even if you can tell them apart, once the bullets start flying it’s hard to remember whose side they are on, or more apt, which side they are currently on. This technique is somewhat overplayed, but Wheatley would have been justified in doing, and the audience would have benefited from, freeze frame introductions at the beginning of the film to tell us who these people are and which crime gang they belong to. Oddly, of all the characters, Larson’s is one of the most poorly developed—it is never clear who she is or why she is there, and for a large chunk of time she disappears from the film entirely.
Wheatley also could have made more of the “big reveal” of who the main aggressor actually is—he introduces a wild card into the story but fails to do much with it, and once he returns to it, the reveal is largely shrugworthy.
Free Fire doesn’t always hit its mark, but thanks to a fun concept and ever-evolving dynamics, it’s an entertaining jaunt. Those looking for a fun action-thriller should look no further.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.