Free Fire in a small world
Review by Aaron Haughton
Director Ben Wheatley serves up a cheeky, 70s throwback shoot-em-up with Free Fire, which as the film's title suggests, comes out guns blazing, occasionally hitting some interesting moments, but unfortunately missing the mark along the way. Ultimately, there are just too many marksmen in the mix, all of whom are interchangeable, slightly forgettable, and difficult to keep straight.
The film centers around a gun deal gone awry, pitting side against side until it's every wo/man for him/herself. Sounds a bit like a Tarantino film, right? Well, yes and no; I mean, it very well could be if it didn't jump straight to the shooting and played with the characters a bit more. That's not to say that the Tarantino feel still doesn't permeate throughout because I think there's shades of Tarantino, mainly Reservoir Dogs, sprinkled throughout Free Fire's narrative and its absurd violence. I'll just leave this here...
It's also kinda hard not to compare the two films because they're both an ode to an era from individuals who have a fond admiration for the time period, and both films straddle the fatalistic thematics that are synonymous with Film Noir. Where they become less comparable, however, is when you delve into the worlds in which the films exist.
Reservoir Dogs, for instance, revolves around a connected world where relationships are all tied together neatly through the connector, crime boss Joe. This is both logical and realistic. The world in which Free Fire's characters reside is a small one; everyone seems to know everyone or be directly connected through some coincidental or ironic, slightly less realistic, Deus Ex Machina way.
Take for instance the whole reason the gun deal goes south. It's because a guy from one side thumbs a guy from the other side as the man who "bottled" his cousin the night before, which causes guy number one to unload on guy number two. Even when some third party shooters show up, they get IDed by one of the arms dealers through some past dealings or involvement. It's uncanny. In some ways, it makes you feel as if you're stuck on a more entertaining, less obnoxious, albeit just as claustraphobic It's a Small World.
Like Tarantino, Wheatley also has a focused idea of what he wants and a jocular nature. Lines like "I forgot who's side I'm on," and "Did one of them shoot her, or did we shoot her," are sure to land laughs, as will the myriad instances of friendly and non-friendly fire. Wheatley's even ironically gathered a cast of actors whose real names even echo the 70s era: Cillian Murphy, Sharlto Copley, Babou Ceesay, and, of course, Armie Hammer, which is a 70s porn pseudonym that would undoubtedly co-stars alongside Dirk Diggler.
Overall, Wheatley's attempt leans more into the overly indulgent or masturbatory than a Tarantino film really feels like or delves to, which is to say that it's fun and should hold interest throughout the bullet filled romp. Although, by the film's close, you're sure to be just as exhausted as the remaining survivors.
Rating: 3 AR17s (which should be M16s like we ordered) out of 5.