Sunday 16 July 2017

Film Review: Free Fire

Ben Wheatley tries his hand at aping Reservoir Dogs to riotous effect. 

One of the most dexterous and consistently interesting directors to emerge from Britain in the last decade, Ben Wheatley’s latest film Free Fire sees the filmmaker transition into pulpy and old fashioned shoot ‘em up territory for a gleeful and balletic celebration of gunplay. 

Set in Boston in 1978, Free Fire sees a duo of Irish terrorists, Chris (Cillian Murphy) and Frank (Michael Smiley), employ the help of local fixers Justice (Brie Larson) and Ord (Armie Hammer) in organising a secretive docklands exchange with wildly unpredictable kingpin Vernon (Sharlto Copley). 

Naturally, the deal soon goes south as hired goons on both sides decide to settle a standing grudge in the midst of an illegal arms deal, and before you know it bullets are arcing across the rubble strewn warehouse like there is no tomorrow. 

What follows is a protracted melee of ricochets, expletives and blood-soaked shoulder pads; Wheatley and his charismatic cast wholeheartedly embrace the zaniness of the premise as they fling dust, shrapnel and sly barbs across the battlefield. Copley is the star of the show, his larger-than-life character an absolute hoot as he tries (and fails) to hit on Justine and weasel his way out of getting a slug to the head.

Larson, Murphy and Hammer are also excellent; the irreverence with which they approach the chaos never undercuts the serious moments and everything knits together for an effective character-driven 90-minute actioner, even when the bare bones plot is scarcely enough to keep the thing anchored during the second half.

It’s Wheatley and Amy Jump’s sharp screenplay, which comes loaded with witty barbs, which makes Free Fire such a fun time. Each of the characters – from Hammer’s cool as a cucumber operative to Jack Reynor’s loose cannon Harry and Sam Riley’s pathetic Stevo – are so distinct that each of their choices and grievances feel natural and relatable as the action starts to unfold around 25 minutes in.

Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury’s unconventional score is loaded with reverb and gentle mandolins, whilst some excellent samples from the era – Creedence Clearwater Revival, naturally – make the whole film an undeniably cool and slick affair.

The Verdict: 8.5/10

Unquestionably light on plot, Free Fire instead chooses to focus on genuinely enthralling action. The editing, cinematography, sound design and mixing all work in tandem to create something rather special; never confusing or disorienting, Wheatley displays an unrivalled aptitude for geography and staging that makes Free Fire easy to follow and enormously engaging to boot.

Free Fire is currently screening at the Revelation Perth International Film Festival 2017 from July 6-19.


  1. I'm really curious about this one. The cast stood out to me but then I saw the trailer and wasn't sure. I'm sure after reading this, so I'll be seeing it as soon as possible!

    1. It's really fun! One of my favourite from the year so far.



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