Rated: R for strong violence, pervasive language, sexual references and drug use. Reviewed by: Jim Release date: April 21, 2017 Released by: A24 Films
Ben Wheatley's late 1970s Boston-based tale has more than a little of the confines and mood of Quentin Tarantino's debut, Reservoir Dogs, but hardly has the know-how to make enough substance from an ambitious concept that is like a climax of a violent action yarn. The cult filmmaker may attract a mostly male demographic into multiplexes for late-night viewing before theatrical runs all but cease.
Free Fire is cited as being influenced by the likes of Sam Peckinpaugh with incessant, sonorous shootings (kudos to the sound design) and piquant zingers also meant to inflict wounds and needed drollery. Besides some decent choreography with incendiary flair to enliven the production, for a while anyway.
The goal appears to be an immersion into an arms deal (involving M-16s) gone awry between Irish and South African criminals, exasperated by a pre-existing feud between two foot soldiers (Sam Riley, Jack Reynor of Sing Street) at a rotting waterfront warehouse. So, let the trigger-happy sanguine mayhem begin which includes an intermediary for the Irish, Brie Larson's Justine and Armie Hammer's deal frontman, the unctuous, scornfully instigating and hirsute Ord. Sharlto Copley (Chappie, Maleficent) and Cilian Murphy (Anthropoid, In The Heart of the Sea) are notable as the testy South African and rugged, if altruistic Irishman (with a hellion sidekick played by Michael Smiley), respectively.
Not that the conceit won't work for some as a stylized gangster spoof (with Martin Scorsese being an executive producer) with the tide turning during extended shoot-outs with everyone hurt to various degrees. Wheatley has fun with the décor from hairstyles and fashion (especially with Hammer of Birth of a Nation and Larson, perhaps a welcome change of pace from Room). Shot in his own locale of Brighton, England, Wheatley (who made the more involving Kill List) also satirizes the period with some gusto (that includes its offhanded sexual attitudes) as an extreme visceral interlude includes John Denver on the 8-track (with 'Annie's Song' recurring).
It just seems that Free Fire runs out of its cannon-like arsenal well before the weapons stop discharging with the characters unable to render much empathy due to the approach of Wheatley and his co-scenarist wife, Amy Jump. This fervent display of carnage revelry probably is technically empowered to larger numbers even if it hardly is the kind of killer entertainment as it was for those who made it.