Free Fire (2017) Review

Director: Ben Wheatley

Runtime: 90 minutes

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

Plot (taken from IMDb): Set in Boston in 1978, a meeting in a deserted warehouse between two gangs turns into a shootout and a game of survival.

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Free Fire is an excellent example of how to turn a simple premise into a fascinating and wholly entertaining film. Chris (Cillian Murphy) and Frank (Michael Smiley), two Irish men (presumably members of the IRA, we are never told) head to a run down warehouse to pick up a butt-load of guns, but when one of their men is shot after a heated exchange, it all goes tits up. Free Fire is essentially an extended Mexican stand-off, but it is so much more than that.

Driector Ben Wheatley worked with Amy Jump on the script, a collaboration that has seen the two develop Sightseers, High-rise, Kill List and A Field in England. Like Sightseers, Free Fire’s script is quick, and ridiculously entertaining. For a film that spends a lot of time following people around on the floor of a deserted warehouse who have been shot once or twice, Free Fire is delightfully witty throughout, from all involved. People might scoff at the lack of character development in the script, and we aren’t given any kind of back-story as to who any of the characters are, or why they wanted the guns in the first place, but it really didn’t matter. Free Fire is slick film-making at its best. It adds to the humour that we don’t learn about the characters, or their intentions. It’s a simple gun exchange deal that goes horribly wrong, in hilarious ways.

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The writing is on point throughout, and each member of the cast looks like they’re having a spectacularly fun time. Whilst all the cast perform admirably, and with a smile on their face, there are two stand-out performers. Sharlto Copley, who plays the hilarious South African Vernon, and Armie Hammer, who plays the overtly suave, laid-back Ord. These two deliver the best performances in their career, flying out quips left-right-and-centre with glee. I cannot stress enough how funny Free Fire is. Take the gun fights for example. In any other action film, a shootout between ten people would be over in as many minutes. In Free Fire, everyone has guns, but none of them can aim very well.

We see people shot in the arm, side and legs at close range. We shouldn’t laugh at people getting shot, but when the characters are laughing at each other for failing to seriously injure their enemies, it’s hard not to join in the hysterics. Vernon strapping cardboard to his elbows and knees with this line in response to his friend laughing at him: “It’s protection from infection” summing up the quick-witted nature of the film. Perhaps it’s delirium from all the blood-loss – a side-effect from all the various gun-wounds – but everyone in the film, and those in the audience are effected by it, laughing at anything and everything.

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I have to give a shout-out to the film’s director of photography, too, Laurie Rose did a great job with the film’s mis-en-scène. For a film set in largely one location, Mr. Rose helped in creating Free Fire’s slick style. The colours are rich, the action sequences, though funny, have a good visceral, aggressive feel to them. Free Fire looks fantastic. Free Fire isn’t an intellectual masterpiece however, and it doesn’t make you think. It’s simply a hilarious dark comedy filled with what should become classic lines. You’ll laugh at the awful aim of all involved, with and at them. You may wince at the foul language and occasional extreme violence, however. Free Fire may not be the best film for the faint-hearted, but it didn’t bother me, and I faint and feel light-headed with relative ease. For those who enjoy dark humour, violence and a script full of foul language, however, Free Fire is a vastly enjoyable and impeccably well-made film. In my opinion, this film will be hard to top this year.


Free Fire is an excellent, vastly enjoyable dark comedy from the brilliant mind of Ben Wheatley.


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