Free Fire Review

They say there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

They.

Well, They probably don’t get invited to many press screenings.

Press screenings like the one I went to for the new Ben Wheatley film Free Fire.

Now, Free Fire is a film about a man or two from the Emerald Isles who cross the Atlantic in search of the American dream.

No… it’s guns that they dream about, a truckload of automatic guns to bring back to Ireland and do who knows what with.

God bless those catholic boys.

And where there’s profit to be had, you’ll always find an American or twelve.

In this particular situation, you can also find a comic relief styled South African who may or may not have a Swiss accent.

So far, so simple.

And yet, when guns and money and men are involved, things are never that simple.

So it proves, as carnage, bullets, laughter, John Denver tracks and a whole heap of alpha male banter ensue.

I first saw Free Fire at last year’s London Film Festival, and I was a little underwhelmed by it.

After the brilliance of Wheatley’s High-Rise at the previous year’s festival, I was eager for another genre defying epic to warp my fragile little mind.

Free Fire isn’t that, but then neither does it need to be.

What Wheatley’s new film delivers is a free-wheeling hour and a half long ride that shoots from the lip as well as the hip, where you’re just as likely to hear a one-liner as you are to duck a bullet.

Apart from the bullets and the banter, not much else happens as the action is confined to a warehouse and a couple of vans.

In fact, Free Fire has the feel of a play, as Wheatley keeps sets down to a minimum and all the work is done by the ensemble cast he’s assembled.

Which is probably why everyone involved has a different accent to play with; whether it’s Cillian Murphy’s authentic Irish brogue, Sam Riley’s jack the lad cockney, Brie Larson’s American damsel who’s not in distress or Sharlto Copley’s ludicrously over the top South African gun runner.

Watching this a second time around was a lot more fun, which was down to either the Planet Hollywood food in my hand or – more likely – the reduced expectations on my part.

I’d wager Free Fire is a cinematic palette cleanser for Wheatley, before he sinks his teeth into another more substantial project.

Just like a lot of other fast food, Free Fire looks and tastes pretty good but is ultimately disposable and won’t linger nearly as long as those gourmet burger onions.

Ans sometimes, that’s a good thing.

Jonathan Campbell

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March 2017
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