As one can tell from our top 10 movies of 2017 so far, this publication is a fan of Free Fire. Ben Wheatley’s violent opus (from producer Martin Scorsese) about a gun sale gone wrong is out now on DVD, Blu-Ray and digital download. It is a must-see movie of the highest order, especially if you are a fan of Quentin Tarantino films and others who craft stories about seedy guys and gals and how their chosen life paths often meet violent ends in the most unglorified ways.
The 70s-set story takes place mostly in an abandoned Boston warehouse where two different groups are meeting with the hopes of ending this day with a whole lot of cash on one hand and a whole lot of guns on the other. If only it was that simple!
The stellar ensemble cast is led by Brie Larson, Armie Hammer and Sharlto Copley. Larson and Hammer are largely responsible for bringing the gun dealing Copley to Cillian Murphy purchaser who is hoping to funnel these weapons to his Irish brothers in the IRA. When Sam Riley’s character is recognized by a member of Copley’s posse, the entire situation goes south in a hurry and over the next 90 minutes, it becomes a fight to the finish in terms of who will make it out of this situation alive. With a whole lot of guns at the center of this dispute, the viewer knows the odds of anyone surviving are small to say the least.
Wheatley’s power exists in his ability to essentially give us a film with one location and stretch out the suspense over a period of time where the outcome is never a given and the idea that the ensemble could turn on itself is ever present. It is powerful, but in the most sizzling simplistic of ways. There is an army of characters, an armory of weapons and no one trusts anyone. How explosive, right?
The actors are top notch and each dive into their character with a panache that elevates the gripping material to a boiling over opus of rhythmic gunshots that are so economically utilized it is uncanny. Seriously, this is not a shootout that last for 90-plus minutes. The filmmaker has dished out who fires and at whom and when in the most economically brilliant way, it is dazzling.
Leading the thespian charge is Larson. The Oscar winner commands as a woman ahead of her time. There were not many females working the underbelly of weapons dealing back in the day and she embodies that fact in the most commandingly subtle of ways. Copley shows us once again why he is one of the more underrated actors out there and for the first time in a while, gets to use his native South African accent as the most joyful, yet devilishly dangerous character he’s played yet. Murphy shows a myriad of emotions as a man driven by political and personal issues. He simply wants to help his brothers and sisters in Ireland and the situation he finds himself in in Free Fire is beyond anything he bargained for and at the height of its craziness, you almost expect him to quote Reservoir Dogs and shout, “Isn’t anyone here a (expletive) professional!.
Hammer plays something fresh here and is not simply the dashing and confident soul (like he has been in The Lone Ranger through The Man from U.N.C.L.E. He is a weed chain-smoking, bearded 70s get-people-together-for-nefarious-purposes fellow who becomes almost blissful when the bullets start flying. As he states in the Free Fire trailer, “now we’re cooking with fire!”
Wheatley has a true command of his craft with his work on Free Fire and we cannot wait to see what he comes up with next. That’s why after witnessing Free Fire at home for the first time; viewers must watch it again with his commentary track turned on. You get so much more insight into the making of the movie from the commentary track than you do in The Making of Free Fire featurette.
Sure, it’s nice to hear from the cast and crew about the making of the movie. But in the end it comes off like a standard, run-of-the-mill EPK-type insight into the crafting of the film. There are no other bonus features to be had on Free Fire, and that’s OK. This is one film that stands on its own and doesn’t need a slew of angles added that add insight. We have the Wheatley insight with his commentary track and the fantastic film. Not a moment more is needed.
Film Grade: A
Bonus Features: C+