Free Fire has a simple premise – an arms deal goes wrong. Tetchy people with itchy trigger fingers lead to guns being shot when it really wasn’t necessary, as everything was almost about to go smoothly, despite gun dealer Vernon (District 9‘s Sharlto Copley) supplying the wrong type of weapon.
Set in 1970s Boston (but filmed in Brighton!), the men and woman – yes, a sole female in Justine (Room‘s Brie Larson) – meet up just outside a warehouse and go in to seal the deal. Alas, junkie Stevo (Sam Riley) has done something he shouldn’t, and his uncle Frank (Michael Smiley), the ‘Baggage Handler’, remonstrating with him won’t put things right for the person he wronged. Having a third party get involved in the bullet ballet complicates matters further, and this all sometimes takes place while a very ’70s in-car 8-track cartridge blares out John Denver‘s Annie’s Song.
There’s a bit of a lull in the middle where the shooting goes on just a bit too long. Perhaps it was me being a bit tired as it was a late night screening – ending just after midnight – and I had been up since 6.30am for work. Either way, I definitely need to see this again when it comes out on Blu-ray.
There were also one or two moments where it was too dark and I was wondering who was doing the shooting in that particular scene, even though you were meant to be able to see them.
Aside from that, everyone’s on-point in this comedy, particularly Copley, whose tries to take the lead and instructs others – in his South African accent – to “Vern and Learn” and “Watch and Vern”. Michael Smiley is brilliant as always, at one moment retorting to another character: “You want sympathy? Look in the dictionary between ‘shit’ and ‘syphilis'”
There was also one thing I’ve never seen in a film before, and I won’t say who it happens to, or what comes after this, but I’ll still wrap a spoiler heading round this…
There’s been comparisons with Reservoir Dogs, some saying that it’s like the final shootout stretched out over 90 minutes. I can see where they’re going with that – especially with one particular moment (you’ll know it when you see it), but it’s a film in its own right, and a bloody good one at that.
After Wheatley’s bizarre but mostly engaging High-Rise, Free Fire is certainly a more accessible film. In its second week, despite only showing once a day at my local Odeon in the Trafford Centre – and at 10.15pm, the room was certainly packed! Thankfully, I always look to sit at the back of the front section of seating, whilst everyone else went to the rear. I do that to avoid the chatterboxes.
Ben Wheatley should be given the job of directing the next James Bond movie, and Sharlto Copley should be the villain, with Michael Smiley as his right-hand man! PLEASE make this happen!!
Running time: 91 minutes
Paramount Pictures UK
Cinema: Odeon, Trafford Centre
Released: March 31st 2017
Director: Ben Wheatley
Producer: Andrew Starke
Screenplay: Amy Jump and Ben Wheatley
Music: Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury
Vernon: Sharlto Copley
Chris: Cillian Murphy
Justine: Brie Larson
Frank: Michael Smiley
Ord: Armie Hammer
Stevo: Sam Riley
Bernie: Enzo Cilenti
Martin: Babou Ceesay
Gordon: Noah Taylor
Harry: Jack Reynor
Jimmy: Mark Monero
Howie: Patrick Bergin
Leary: Tom Davis
Telephone Sales (voice): Sara Dee
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.