STUDIOCANAL UK (2017)

 

Director: Ben Wheatley

 

Starring: Sharlto Copley, Armie Hammer, Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, Jack Reynor, Babou Ceesay, Enzo Cilenti, Sam Riley, Michael Smiley, Noah Taylor

Directed by near-acclaimed British director Ben Wheatley, Free Fire is set in the grimy underbelly of 1978’s Boston. Staged in a dark and dingy warehouse, a nod to the decline of manual labour, and packed with polyester suits, attitude and a solid cast, what could go wrong?

 

What could go right is probably a better question.

 

It’s not that Free Fire is a bad movie, it just…exists. There’s nothing about it that screams great movie, but it has just enough about it to be better than other releases this year.

Basically, two groups meet in a warehouse in a dodgy deal. On one side there are the buyers, Chris (Murphy) and Frank (Smiley) (with cohorts Stevo (Riley) and Bernie (Cilenti)), a couple of IRA members. On the other side are the sellers, led by the South African loudmouth Vernon (Copley) and his associates Martin (Ceesay), Harry (Reynor) and Gordon (Taylor). Making up the crew are the intermediaries/representatives Justine (Larson) and Ord (Hammer). Eventually the deal goes sour due to a conflict between Stevo and Harry, egos start flying, the deal is off and the guns are out. Both sides engage in a literal film-length shootout with the final objective to be the lucky one to walk out with the case of money.

 

And breathe.

 

Whilst there are jokes blended in and visual gags galore, the movie falls apart quite quickly when the hour long gunfight/standoff drags on and on. Yes, I see the joke that none of the cast can aim to save their lives, but after 17 minutes of this I started to dream of a stray bullet piercing my retinas. Having this interspersed with reactionary comedy doesn’t carry the film, especially with the slow build up and fast action scenes complicating matters. Everything is shot close up with no establishing shots to see where the players are in conjunction with each other, and a lot of nothing happens for the majority of the film. Lots of twists occur towards the end, but none are satisfying as I became lost, confused and disinterested.

 

Not much can be said for the acting on show. Not that it’s bad, but everyone is clearly having a blast shooting and shouting gags that there’s no real need to act. Hammer plays the suave type well, Copley is the standout as the cocky sex pest and the rest all do their job pleasantly. See Michael Smiley in Jawbone if you want to see him stand out this year.

 

The soundtrack is fun and John Denver is utilised surprisingly brilliantly towards the end (he was featured in Alien: Covenant also so 2017 is his Hollywood takeover…). There is some great face fuzz on show throughout – Larson aside – and the film captures the grubbiness it aims for well. Unfortunately, the staleness took over and what could have been a fun, quirky (shudder) action comedy just became a bore.

 

Some good gags and cool music, but like the shooting, this didn’t hit the target.

July 4th 2017

© 2016 Matt Hudson / What I Watched Tonight / Essex

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