Free Fire Blu-ray Review

Free Fire

In the interests of full disclosure, I should say that if Ben Wheatley were to suddenly announce his plans to make a two-hour documentary about the effect of air on a freshly-applied coat of emulsion, I would most likely be first in line for tickets.

So when I heard that Wheatley was tackling a seventies-set crime film with an amazing cast, I was pretty excited.

Free Fire is a tale of what happens when an arms deal goes spectacularly wrong.

Chris (Cillian Murphy) and Frank (Michael Smiley) are a pair of IRA men who, through intermediaries Justine and Ord, have arranged a meet with a local gang for the purpose of purchasing semi-automatic weapons.

Chris and Frank are backed up by Stevo and Bernie; as Ord puts it, an interesting choice of muscle.

The meeting location is an abandoned, and decidedly foreboding, warehouse somewhere in Boston.

The gang is led by the flamboyant Vernon (Sharlto Copley), who is backed up by his own interesting choice of muscle. Tensions between the two factions start high and then climb ever upwards.

There are some last-minute changes to the deal, but it looks like agreement is finally and begrudgingly reached, when suddenly trouble strikes and everyone is thrown headlong into a gunfight.

Think of a ninety-minute extended version of Reservoir Dogs’ climactic standoff.

Allegiances are made as quickly as they are discarded, ammunition is scavenged and all anyone wants to do is walk out alive.

With the cash, if possible.

Wheatley is a pretty versatile director, who ranges from the trippiness of High Rise and A Field in England to the genuine chills of Kill List.

Here, we get something that’s more akin to the dark comedy of Down Terrace and Sightseers; a heady mix of the former’s farcical qualities combined with the latter’s blood-splattering glee.

Given the onscreen levels of violence, it doesn’t hurt that the film boasts Martin Scorsese as Executive Producer.

The cast is impressive, with Copley particularly a comic powerhouse, and Sam Riley and Jack Treynor, both unrecognisable making the most of their roles.

Alongside the vast array of weaponry, the cast is also armed with a punchy, witty script by Wheatley and Amy Jump.

As for the action itself, it is clear that a huge amount of planning went into the choreography and that, to portray this level of chaos onscreen, you need a hell of a lot of organisation.

All that said, I somehow didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would. As forewarned at the outset, this may be a testament to my unrealistic expectations rather than anything else.

The shootout essentially occupies over two thirds of the film and… that’s pretty much it. I suppose I was expecting something more, some substance or deeper meaning.

But for the fast-paced and gritty shoot-em-up which Wheatley was aiming for, it hits all the right spots and the target audience won’t be disappointed.

If you happen to be an expectant Wheatley fan like myself though, it’s best not to expect new heights here.

Conor Brennan

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Dates ‘n stuff

August 2017