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What Free Fire basically amounts to is a very violent game of paintball with some of the best character actors of today. I don’t know a single person who saw this trailer and didn’t laugh. It’s one of those ideas that are so good that it makes you wonder why nobody has really done it before, not for a whole movie at any rate. It’s most certainly the kind of thing that’s up my alley and I couldn’t wait to see it. And now I have, and I think it may not be the only time I do.
If you’ve seen the trailer then you know what the story is; a black comedy about arms dealing. This particular deal goes wrong and so the sellers and buyers end up on opposite sides and starts shooting each other, and it carries on for the duration of the film. Let’s be honest, you’re not hear for the story, you’re here to laugh, whoop and have a good time. That’s the target this film sets and it manages to hit bullseye almost constantly.
Our cast is very impressive, in that they’re not exactly the most well-known of actors but, as previously stated, are definitely among the best working today. Sharlto Copley, Cillian Murphy, Armie Hammer, Brie Larson, Jack Reynor, Sam Riley and Michael Smiley are among the talent on offer here. Every single one of them, unless you really know your films, are actors who you have loved and will recognise in that “oh, what’ve they been in” way. And, of course, they are on top form here. Not a single one of them felt like an actor having fun, Which I’m sure this film was to them, but characters in a chaotic and obscene situation. They knew exactly what to do to deliver a good performance; nobody was falling behind and taking us out of the film, and at the same time nobody felt like they were over doing it. It’s exactly what the film needed and they all delivered it perfectly.
But the film would not work without stylish direction and quippy writing. Luckily Ben Wheatley knew that too. Personally, I am not a fan of Wheatley’s work. I saw Kill List and Sightseers and was very disappointed by both. He also directed a couple episodes of Doctor Who, but that’s not a show I like. But, for Free Fire I feel he brought enough style and crazy to make the whole thing really work in his favour. The sets are just derelict factories, or specifically a derelict factory, which could have been bland and uninteresting but the set is used to its full potential. It not only has different items and equipment around to keep you guessing as to what will be used against who next, but the layout feels like a paintball or laser-tag arena. This game like set-up easily makes the film feel a lot more fun. And setting the film in the ‘70’s was an oddly inspired choice. The costumes, weapons and make-up make this film feeling like a live-action cartoon. In fact, now I think of it there is an oddly Looney Toons like feel to the film; though I wouldn’t bring the kids.
And the writing is hilarious. I never got sick of hear these people talking. It’s on the same level as Quentin Tarantino and Shane Black with how witty and clever and just funny it is. It has you listening carefully for fear that you will miss any joke. It is very British in humour, mostly sarcastic remarks and laughing at the expense of others, but I’ve always found that to be my favourite humour so I love it. It’s also well-paced and toned so the writing does extend beyond the dialogue too. In fact, Wheatley does such a good job of it that it hides well the fact that the characters themselves are as shallow as the story. It does pain me to say it, but if you are wanting something that speaks for a cause or is a social satire or an interesting character drama beyond the chaos, then you will be disappointed. Free Fire is only here to entertain, and it does it very well, better than most of the films released this year, but it does suffer as a narrative and character arc.
I, however, find this easy to look past thanks to the films style and wit, and the chemistry of the actors. Free Fire is easily the oddest film I’ve seen so far this year, and it’s glorious. One I certainly recommend. Lock and load and join in the fun…or just grab your popcorn and enjoy the show.