Free Fire
dir Ben Wheatley
prd Andrew Starke
scr Ben Wheatley, Amy Jump
with Brie Larson, Sharlto Copley, Cillian Murphy, Armie Hammer, Jack Reynor, Sam Riley, Michael Smiley, Enzo Cilenti, Babou Ceesay, Noah Taylor, Mark Monero, Patrick Bergin
release UK 31.Mar.17, US 21.Apr.17
16/UK Film4 1h30
Free Fire
Let's make a deal: Hammer, Larson and Murphy

copley reynor riley
london film fest
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Free Fire With a bracingly simple premise and a screen full of hilariously quirky characters, Ben Wheatley plays a jazz riff on Tarantino in this riotous shoot-em-up. The plot may be under-defined and only barely developed, but the actors are having so much fun adding various shades of comedy and intensity to their roles that they keep the audience chuckling from start to finish.

Accompanied by boneheaded drivers Stevo and Bernie (Riley and Cilenti), Justine (Larson), Chris (Murphy) and Frank (Smiley) head to a deserted warehouse in 1978 Boston to buy a load of guns from the charismatic Ord (Hammer) and his oddball dealer Vernon (Copley), who is waiting with his ex-Black Panther goon Martin (Ceesay), and bickering drivers Harry and Gordon (Reynor and Taylor). There's a bit of tense banter, then just as the deal is peacefully completed, Stevo and Harry spot each other. And they're both still angry after a nightclub encounter the night before.

After this buildup, with these unhinged people, it's obvious that if anyone draws a gun the scene will descend into carnage. Which of course is what happens. The twist is that the gunshots initially injure everyone without killing them. So they're soon crawling in the dirt trying to find refuge while shooting at anything that moves. Some have an eye on the case of cash on the ground, others are trying to get to a crate of rifles. Then a phone rings, and some decide to attempt a call for help.

All of this plays out in real time with a continual stream of witty insults and amusing gags distracting the audience from the relentless gunplay. Larson emerges quickly as the most level-headed person in the fray, while Hammer's wise-cracking swagger is undiminished by a few bullet wounds. Copley has the scene stealing role, a hilarious swirl of preening bluster. And Reynor and Riley are amusing as the tenaciously hotheaded morons who kick everything off.

The only plot to speak of is the rolling mayhem, which pauses here and there so everyone can reload, gather their breath and exchange snappy one-liners before someone decides to fire another shot. The progression is coherent and entertaining, as everyone desperately looks for a way out and weighs up who they might be able to trust. Although because there's no real depth of meaning to any of this (aside from a mutually assured destruction metaphor), it's difficult to be concerned with whether anyone will get out of here alive.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 14.Oct.16

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