Free Fire – film review

Free Fire is a film about an arms deal that goes wrong and the confrontation that follows. That might not sound like enough story to fill a film, but that’s all there really is. There’s a lot of action, some very funny moments and an incredible amount of shooting.

It’s a film that shouldn’t be taken too seriously and doesn’t do an awful lot but it’s excellently made, has a great cast and is a lot of fun to watch.

A big shoot out

The story is fairly thin and there’s not a lot of time spent on character development. If you imagine a typical action film but the first hour is condensed into fifteen minutes and the final scene is stretched out to over an hour then that’s pretty much the structure of this story. It’s one big final showdown that takes place over the course of the film.

It’s a testament to the excellent storytelling that the flimsy premise held my attention throughout and balance between the tension and humour makes it not feel like a relentless onslaught of action.

Stormtrooper levels of accuracy

Many have compared the film to the famous standoff scene in Reservoir Dogs but I think Mark Kermode got it right when he compared it to the scene in Naked Gun, where Frank Drebbin and a bad guy are taking pot shots at each other from behind the same barrel. All the characters in this film are awful shots. The number of point blank shots that don’t find their mark is ridiculous, even in a film which isn’t too firmly grounded in reality.

The stomtroopers in Star Wars are well known for their lack of accuracy but even one of them would have had a decent chance of being the last man standing in this particular shootout. I suppose it’s important not to kill off too many characters too early in the film, but this was one of hte most unbelievable elements of a film that regularly teetered on the brink of complete silliness.

A great ensemble cast

Whomever put together the cast for this film should give themselves a pat on the back, because there are some excellent performances. Armie Hammer was great, his comic timing was always spot on and the detached ambivalence he showed was a great foil for the over-the-top antics of Sharlito Copley. Despite potentially being the main bad guy, I found Copley was my favourite of the characters and his frequently hilarious performance made the film for me.

Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy and Sam Riley were all excellent in their own way too, each actor improving the performances of the others around them. I’ve just looked back at IMDB and can see I’ve not mentioned Michael Smiley, Noah Taylor or Jack Raynor, which goes to show just how good a cast this film has, because those three were also all very good.

Ben Wheatley – a great director that critics don’t seem to like

I was surprised by how much I loved this film because it’s not been universally acclaimed by the critics. It currently has a Metacritic score of 66, which isn’t a bad score but meant I went in expecting an enjoyable but flawed film, when it was actually an accomplished and very entertaining film.

Ben Wheatley seems to be consistently underrated by critics, in my opinion at least. Looking back over the films he’s put out the metascore tends to hover between 65 and 75. Always decent but rarely highly praised. It’s my opinion that critics are maybe a bit snobby about the kind of films that Ben Wheatley makes, plus they may find the humour that runs through much of his work to be in poor taste. I don’t know the reasons, but I do think that he’s not getting the credit he deserves.

Overall rating – 84 out of 100

Free Fire is a film that knows exactly what it’s doing and it does it exceptionally well. It’s funny, tense, action-packed and a bit silly – I loved it.