MovieBob Reviews: FREE FIRE (2017) - Geek.com

A movie premise doesn’t get much simpler than Free Fire. There are about 13 criminals of various stripes meeting in an abandoned warehouse to make a gun deal. Things go south, everybody pretty much winds up shooting at everybody else and trying to make their individual escapes and we the audience get to watch all 75 to 80 minutes of it. That’s the whole thing.

Granted, we’ve seen these kinds of single-location shootout action films before, and usually, they exist for one of two reasons. Either because the filmmakers want a mostly plot-free excuse to show off how many elaborately-choreographed John Woo gun moves they can invent or to show off a similarly elaborate mastery of spatial geography i.e. “look how masterfully I can keep track of where everyone is in real-time.” Those are both perfectly valid reasons to do a movie like this – but Ben Wheatley is a decidedly unusual filmmaker, and he’s doing something a little bit different with the material.

Instead of concentrating on technical show-offy of that sort (outside of delivering a competently directed feature and executing a mostly faithful recreation of a low-key 1970s Boston milieu), Free Fire is all about dwelling on the messy details of how, well… messy an actual gunfight is: None of these people (who, for the record, are a couple of IRA thugs doing the buying, some assorted American gun-traffickers doing the selling and a handful of Bostonian lowlifes helping move things around on both ends) are “trained killers,” to start with, and everyone is off-guard because the inciting incident is just that two of guys had beef the previous night and weren’t expecting to see each other there.

It gets the bulk of its novelty, from the fact that when a bullet isn’t a kill shot (which is most of the time), it mainly leaves one injured and stumbling. Which means that this all turns very quickly into a bunch of not terribly bright people who are all injured in one way or another limping around in chaos trying to work their way to the exits, shouting at each other to try and keep some semblance of who’s on whose side. And occasionally being imperiled much more by the filthy conditions of the factory than by the fact that they’ve all got guns. They’re also all pretty much different varieties of criminal idiot (save for the one woman on the scene who is of course immediately sick of everyone’s shit even before the shooting commences) so that adds complications of its own.

This would all probably be more than a little insufferable if it didn’t have a fun cast (and also if it were even a hair longer than it is); but fortunately they’ve thought to populate the roster with a mix of reliable character performers and some more recognizable stars clearly relishing the opportunity to play against type and mess with their bigger-screen images – most prominently Brie Larson getting in at least one more shot of gritty indie movie nastiness in before she begins her stint as Captain Marvel.

Sharlto Copley is also on hand giving… well, “The Sharlto Copley Performance.” There’s really just no other way to describe what he does whenever he’s permitted to let loose in a movie (which he certainly is here.) But the fun surprise turns out to be Armie Hammer: I’m getting the strong sense that he’s another one of these actors who’s naturally best suited to comedy but got trapped in leading man roles because it’s what he looks like; which is kind of a bummer because he’s much better in stuff like this than The Lone Ranger.

I’m going to try and tell you that Free Fire is a great film – it’s a minor piece, a mostly enjoyable distraction that (perhaps intentionally) lacks the thematic heft and nastier impulses that Wheatley and partner Amy Jump brought to earlier material like Kill List and High-Rise. But it’s a quick, fun, decent time at the movies and it’s very good at being exactly what it sets out to be. Worth a look.

MovieBob Reviews: FREE FIRE (2017) - Geek.com

MovieBob Reviews: FREE FIRE (2017) – Geek.com

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