Free Fire

Film Review by Josh Slater-Williams | 17 Feb 2017
Film title: Free Fire
Director: Ben Wheatley
Starring: Sharlto Copley, Armie Hammer, Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, Jack Reynor, Michael Smiley, Sam Riley, Babou Ceesay, Enzo Cilenti, Noah Taylor
Release date: 31 Mar
Certificate: 18

Shades of Sam Peckinpah in this star-studded action film about an arms deal gone wrong from Sightseers director Ben Wheatley

Jean-Luc Godard once said that all you need to make a movie is a gun and a girl. What he may have meant is that all you need to make a movie are several guns, a girl, and nine largely incompetent guys. And that, for all intents and purposes, is Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire.

You could superficially read Free Fire as a riff on the formula of Reservoir Dogs, given its single-location setting in an abandoned building formerly used for manufacturing, where the personalities on display are as loud as the gunfire that disrupts the hardly calm proceedings – one specific moment in the final act even recalls Tarantino’s film fairly explicitly. But Wheatley’s cinematic ancestry stretches back further and is far richer, both tonally and in terms of craft, than that description; this is hardly among the ilk of Very Bad Things to Do for 2 Days in Denver When You’re a Dead Boondock Saint.

A penchant for the Hong Kong action cinema aesthetic is clearly shared between Wheatley and Tarantino, and that influence is most evident in Wheatley's set piece staging, but Sam Peckinpah would seem to be the most overt inspiration in terms of the effect guns have on the human body. Though played considerably more comedic than something like The Wild Bunch, Free Fire is concerned with the fuckery that even a single, small gun-induced wound to a non-vital area will do to a person.

There are almost no swift, clean kills in this film: no immediately fatal shots to terminate characters from the narrative. In what one suspects is a more realistic depiction of criminal warfare, even professional killers tend to be crap shots in the midst of a melee brought about solely through the fiery temperaments of an arms dealer’s younger hired hands. If a peak John Woo film can be described as a bullet ballet, Free Fire is more like a bullet brouhaha.

Free Fire screens at Glasgow Film Festival: 22 Feb, GFT, 8.45pm | 23 Feb, GFT, 3.45pm

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