A barrage of bullets and one liners, Free Fire is another success in Ben Wheatley’s growing filmography of brilliant films yet, even with the quality of his previous works, this tale of a gun trade gone wrong may just be my favourite: bringing wit, gore and a tighter pace than any film this year.
Wheatley has created a bottle style narrative to focus on a small cast of extremely compelling characters; brought to life by an equally compelling cast of both Hollywood and British talent, signalling the continuing move of Wheatley into popular cinema with stars like Brie Larson and Armie Hammer. Both give terrific performances as do the rest of the cast but it is the less know talent of Michael Smiley and Sam Riley that give the two strongest performances in my opinion. Wheatley master the two poles of violence and comedy masterfully, weaving together hilarious dialogue (thanks to Wheatley and Amy Jumps strong script) and some of the most brutal action I’ve seen in a while. Despite the endless onslaught of gunfire, each bullet is given significance and impact with pitch perfect sound design and realistic, gory injuries. Another strong element is the 70s setting, a personal appeal of mine due to the aesthetics and music of the time; both brought to life on screen in great detail.
While the relentless thrills of the film are constantly escalating and keeping you engaged, the climax itself is unfortunately almost anti climatic, unable to capitalise on the preceding action set pieces and leaving you on a very sudden, ambiguous final shot. Despite this, the characters keep the story constantly fresh, each bringing their own motivations and personality to the chaotic meeting in that fateful warehouse. Even with the escalating violence of the situation, they all remain fun and the witty rapport between each of them never stops, especially with Sharlto Copleys childish leader Vern, who gets some of the films best lines. The compression of the action into almost real time keeps everything tight and relentlessly compelling from start to end with every action registering as a vital moment in the bigger, bloodier picture.
Free Fire is a violent yet hilarious thriller that shows how action on a small scale can have so much more impact than a worldwide epic. Hopefully Wheatley continues to expand his filmography and further perfect the merging of British Charm and American talent.