With Martin Scorsese as an executive producer, it is no surprise Free Fire manages to capture many of the elements of his films – namely, an often winning combination of violence, wit and swearing. In this case however, one wonders if director Ben Wheatley perhaps might have been slightly overindulgent, in a film that is not even two hours long, it is a lot to cram in.
The plot of Free Fire is uncomplicated. Set in a warehouse in the late 1970s, a group of Irish Republican sympathisers attempt to purchase weapons from a Bostonian gang, only for all hell to break loose when a nasty incident between two members of either side is brought to the fore. What Wheatley does with this relatively straightforward story is impressive, in that he achieves much in certain areas, but does disappoint elsewhere.
For a start, the violence in the film is spectacular. From immolation to a man being crushed by a vehicle, the viewer can barely comprehend what has just happened before bullets are once more flying and more blood has been lost. Further, the camera work capturing all this is laudable, with swift cuts and odd angles that add to the chaos already present. Yet a major issue here is that, while the violence is creative, it is dragged on to the extent that the pace slows down and the viewer begins to yearn for dialogue – and with good reason.
One strong point of the film is the script, and its delivery by some fine actors. Cillian Murphy and Sam Riley (Inspector Archer of SS-GB) both play their respective characters with panache, the former cool-headed, soft-spoken and the latter drifting between consciousness and delusion.
The highlight of the film is perhaps Gordon (Noah Taylor), whose role as the film’s ‘comic relief’ provides a breather from the otherwise relentless action. However even here Wheatley crosses the mark, with references to unwarranted sexual advances and unnecessary comparisons (the latter including a bizarre remark involving the Hunchback of Notre Dame) that mar what is an otherwise hilarious, if crude, film. In essence, if you are fan of Tarantino or the Coen Brothers (or action films in general), this might be the film for you. But be warned as it takes a sudden dark turn.
Image: Bex Walton