Starring: Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, Sharlto Copley, Armie Hammer, Sam Riley, Jack Reynor, Noah Taylor, Babou Ceesay
Directed by: Ben Wheatley
Plot: An arms deal goes awry. The film is pretty much one big gun fight.
What Works: This is exactly the kind of film that Guy Ritchie would have done a fantastic job with. Of course, he would have needed to punch up the script a bit… actually have characters and stuff. But, in concept, I would have loved to see Guy Ritchie’s version of this. I haven’t seen anything else by Mr. Wheatley, but he’s clearly influenced by Ritchie. Since I have nothing else to go off, I’ll call him a Ritchie knock off for the time being. The cast does a mostly good job with their very limited constructs. Copley specifically is entertaining, and I thought Sam Riley was also a standout. Also, it’s very short in runtime, so even though there isn’t a lot of substance here, it doesn’t try to drag it out. It actually ends up being an OK film because it doesn’t try and stretch a small concept into two hours. It’s a fairly creative shoot out, and somewhat well directed. Overall, I enjoyed it, and would give it a soft thumbs up.
What Doesn’t Work: There are no characters here, or background. So the story suffers. When characters die, we’re not really connected to them anyway. In fact, the lesser known actors die first, as if to say “we didn’t even bother”. So instead of you rooting for characters, you find yourself rooting for Brie Larson the actress… because you know who she is, not because you know who her character is. In fact, there’s a twist reveal halfway through that doesn’t work, and then again at the end, because we don’t know anything about these characters, their motivations, or relationships. Because the film tried super hard to be so self contained, it becomes trapped in the constraints it has put on itself. If Free Fire aspired to be Reservoir Dogs, it missed completely. The story is nowhere near as interesting, nor is the dialogue.
Final Word: I didn’t hate this film, and like I said, I give it a soft thumbs up. Or, one thumb? I wouldn’t have recommended this for theatres, but for home viewing? I mean, I spent a little over a dollar on this, so how can I be mad? It’s so short, it didn’t waste my time, and there are some things to like here. Could it have been better? Probably. But that would have required a better script, and possibly a different director. I don’t have any problems with any of the actors in the film, just that they weren’t given enough substance to begin with.
Final Grade: C+