Set in Boston in 1978, a meeting in a deserted warehouse between two gangs turns into a shootout and a game of survival.
Ben Wheatley’s sixth feature film since 2009 is one of his best yet, a tight genre piece set almost entirely in a warehouse where a guns deal has gone wrong. Beyond ‘Sightseers’, I’ve been indifferent to most of Wheatley’s work, but I do love his approach to tackling different genres in each of his films, and ‘Free Fire’ is another new venture in this regard. The idea for the film came from an old FBI report about a lengthy shootout between criminal gangs in a warehouse, and Wheatley’s taken this premise and expanded it out into feature length. The nature of the premise means it does feel stretched out at times, but the fast paced script and strong ensemble kept me fully invested throughout.
We know what’s going to happen so the script wastes minimal time setting things up, although some of the most enjoyable moments come in the initial negotiations where we’re waiting for the inciting incident for everything to kick off. Despite the speedy start and the introduction of a variety of individuals, I felt the film did a good job of defining all of its characters and their quirks reasonably well, and the script as a whole successfully balances humour without sacrificing the tension. Wheatley’s assembled a terrific ensemble who bounce off each other well and it’s hard to pick out individual favourites, but I’ll do so anyway (Jack Reynor and Sharlto Copley)! A premise like this could easily have fallen into the trap of leading the audience down a path of guessing who’s going to die next, but I never really felt that here. The logistics of the action and the quick fire dialogue keep the action moving around the warehouse and there’s a lot going on for the audience to immerse themselves in.
The best compliment I can pay ‘Free Fire’ is that it feels like the kind of film the McDonagh brothers have been making, sharing much of the same vibes in effortlessly blending sharp comedy with violence, not to mention some well-placed musical cues. I really liked ‘Free Fire’ and I hope and think it’ll find a strong audience when it’s released in a couple of weeks.
Directed By: Ben Wheatley
Starring: Cillian Murphy, Armie Hammer, Brie Larson, Sharlto Copley, Michael Smiley, Jack Reynor, Sam Riley, Enzo Cilenti, Noah Taylor and Babou Ceesay