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Free Fire
Genre Crime

Free Fire is a crime thriller and dark comedy caper from Ben Wheatley, who seems to have been heavily influenced by stylish action directors, Quentin Tarantino and Guy Ritchie. The film is set in a Boston warehouse in 1978 as a meeting between two gangs turns into a bloody shootout and a game of survival. While never short on ammunition, he's armour-plated this single location vehicle with an ensemble including the likes of our very own Sharlto Copley, Brie Larson, Sam Riley, Cillian Murphy, Michael Smiley, Jack Reynor and Armie Hammer. Some of the coolest cats in Hollywood enter the fray of a gangster's playground to get the money, the guns or both.

Free Fire is aimed squarely at fans of Quentin Tarantino and Guy Ritchie, essentially blending American Hustle with Reservoir Dogs and b-movies of the '70s. This dusty minimalist ensemble crime thriller takes place at a warehouse and is there to stay as a deal goes horribly wrong. Bad -language and gunfire pepper the film as some rather amusing dark comedy plays out between a hotchpotch of surly characters. With very little dialogue, lots of shouting and ricocheting bullets, it's a pretty dark, gritty and violent flick.

Ben Wheatley laces it with style in the quick draw editing and wardrobe department, even making some space for the nostalgic and peaceful music of John Denver to usher in a refreshingly sombre Deer Hunter mood. Unfortunately, while amusing and stylish, it lacks substance... and nothing, even Sharlto Copley's outrageous South African accent and ad-libbed "lekker" and "boet" can refurbish the bullet-riddled target. While the off-the-cuff dialogue, fresh cinematography and paintball style camaraderie make it entertaining - it never rises above it pulpy comic book actioner status.

The character performances from the underdog crew keep it on-track as relational discord is established and plays out in the body count. Copley is a lynch pin acting like a kingpin, playing into his South African heritage with great gusto and off-handed charm as a wild card. Brie Larson holds fort as the sole actress, wrangling her way into the picture against some cringe-worthy chauvinist barbs. Sam Riley is slithery as a low-life scumbag, Cillian Murphy keeps his composure as the dark horse, Michael Smiley is reminiscent of Peter Stormare, Jack Reynor lands some good laughs while Armie Hammer plays Big Daddy Cool.

Quite amazingly, despite its quick unravelling, it holds together, but could have benefitted from more dark comedy in the vein of Monty Python or the unscripted comedy genius of Christopher Guest films. With so many wounded gangsters crawling around and trying their hand at chin-up bravado, it seemed like a perfect opportunity for great comedy went to waste. It's still pretty funny, especially with Copley's outrageous character trying to call the shots and opening the floodgate, yet one gets the impression Wheatley was trying to keep a lid on the potboiler to maintain some level of reality and prevent it from drawing direct comparisons with Anchorman.

If you prefer films with a bit more meat and a story that doesn't just skip the car chase onto the third act showdown, Free Fire may not be your blood-smeared cup of tea. However, if you've enjoyed single location films before and can handle a barrage of urban artillery and f-bombs with tongue-sticking-through-cheek humour, you may just like it!

The bottom line: Off-the-wall

6.00/10 ( 1 Vote )
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