CUFF 17 Review: Free Fire

Ben Wheatley’s newest film Free Fire features an impressive cast that does their best to liven up the 90 minute shootout. After an arms deal goes bad, the buyers and sellers split up and begin spraying bullets at each other from across an abandoned warehouse. The action takes a backseat to the comedy of the film. Sometimes bordering on slapstick, Free Fire offers witty one liners that get reactions but doesn’t present anything more than that. The characters all have one trait and they stretch it for the entirety of the film. Thanks to a couple standout performances, Free Fire is still worthy of a watch, preferably from the comfort of your own home.

Ben Wheatley decides to shoot the majority of the film handheld which can be extremely jarring from time to time as we try to keep track of who is shooting who. The action itself isn’t memorable or entertaining for that matter. A large chunk of the film consists solely on the characters using cover and ducking from bullets while offering a quip right after. For people that are buying and selling weapons, the characters can’t seem to hit anything. As the film goes a long it gets tedious as not much progression is made in the story. Even at a runtime of an hour and a half, Free Fire still manages to have a lot of downtime in between a comedic moment or notable action set piece.

A cast that includes Sharlto Copley, Cillian Murphy, Armie Hammer, Brie Larson, and Jack Reynor,  Free Fire doesn’t give its characters a lot of depth and that seems to be the most appropriate decision. Adding more characterization would result in the runtime being extended and ultimately prolonging a film that already crawls at times. The standouts for the film are without a doubt Copley and Hammer. With his questionable choice in fashion and quirky accent, Copley’s Vernon instantly gets the viewers attention. From the get-go we know who Vernon is as a person when he mistakenly brings the wrong weapons to the warehouse where the sale is going down. As the shootout ensues, Vernon is dependant on his workers to finish the job as he hides. His delivery and how it’s delivered made for the most laughs throughout the film.

Armie Hammer plays Ord, the man responsible for organizing the sale. Much like Vernon, Ord responds with wisecracking humor as he shoots bullets aimlessly across the warehouse. Cillian Murphy’s Chris is calm, cool, and collected until the deal takes a sudden turn. Much like Kong: Skull Island, Brie Larson isn’t given a lot to do and as a result ends up just reacting with facial expressions. Jack Reynor plays one of Vernon’s workers and is partly responsible for the deal going haywire. He constantly antagonizes and tries to get the buyers to react by making a bad decision.

To sum it up, Free Fire has a great cast with notable performances from Copley and Hammer. The biggest takeaway from the movie is that it’s not fun enough. There are moments of humor but the action falls flat due to the incomprehensible camerawork. The synopsis of the film is simple but yet at times we struggle to remember who is fighting against who. As the film enters the third act it becomes exhausting after all the nonsensical shooting to no prevail. Without the likeable cast put on the screen, Free Fire becomes no more than a Reservoir Dogs remake with no substance.

Rating: 6/10

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