Review: Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire knows no cease fire in narrating a full-frontal arms deal gone awry chaos. With ten characters introduced upfront, initially dispersed into two opposing factions, before grouping into smaller groups later on, you know that there’s no guarantee that this bullet bonanza will end well… or start well.
Taking time to lead us to the main event – the claustrophobic bullet ballet, but the time Free Fire takes is apparently made into a delightful appetizer. We’re quickly introduced to two Irishmen, Chris (Cillian Murphy) and Frank (Michael Smiley) who, with their henchmen (Enzo Cilenti and Sam Riley), are in full trust to a fixer, Justin (Brie Larson), who works with Ord (Armie Hammer), to buy guns from Vernon (Sharlto Copley) and his men (incl. Jack Reynor and Noah Taylor within). We know from the beginning that something is off in this deal; therefore, when things escalate quickly as past grudge re-embarks, ‘surprise’ is no longer an appropriate vocabulary.
Wheatley gradually feeds us with suspicions and clues-and-cues about who will target who confidently with characterizations and British dry, deadpan comedy without over-complicated backstories. Some characters are destined to confront each other, but some are too obnoxious to side with, hence more perplexed alliance. Once someone shoots someone, the main course is inevitable.
An hour long of free fire is staged with episodes – from the exchange of shootings, exchange of insults, exchange of banters, to quests for way out. Wheatley handles the action creatively with camera movements and, surprisingly, dialogues; but, there are moments when the conflict becomes monotonous and tiring. The further we go into the story, the more we want to know how it ends, which appears too late (and a little too mediocre, despite the surprise works).
Understandable how Free Fire comes out limp approaching the end, it’s the film’s merciless approach that takes its toll. By an hour we’re into the gunfight, at least, one bullet has pierced each character’s flesh and those characters, instead of going berserk, decides to go full realistic – mostly taking covers and staggering/crawling to save their own asses. There’s no win-win solution, for sure.
Those who like likable characters with ‘likable’ development aren’t suggested to watch this. Yet, those whole love instant bloody Mexican stand-offs will take the hot bullets just right. The only downside: the fact that the best part is the most tiring part of Free Fire. There’s just too much fun for this deal-gone-wrong bonanza.