The clever and fun action thriller Free Fire begins when Oscar-winning actress Brie Larson introduces both sides of an illegal gun transaction. It’s 1978, and the hoods, played by Armie Hammer, Cillian Murphy and a bunch of less recognizable faces, meetup in a long-abandoned factory. The deal, of course, goes bad, and they start shooting at each other. They are all pinned down, and all the action occurs in a confined space. Pretty quickly, everyone is wounded, and has to crawl, hobble, limp and hop around trying to take out the others.
The factory is a dark and gritty setting, and it’s not going to turn out well, but it’s too light-hearted to call this a neo-noir. These are boys (and a girl) playing with guns, and everybody is having a lot of fun. Indeed, Free Fall has the all-in-good-fun tone of The Dirty Dozen and reminds us of a Quentin Tarantino film with much crisper dialogue and less gore. Two of characters come to especially gruesome ends, but this is not a splatter-a-thon. And here’s a cinematic First – a tickle attack in the midst of a gunfight.
In another Taratinoesque touch, classic rock, especially Creedence Clearwater Revival, is put to great use on the soundtrack. But the insertion of a John Denver album into a cassette tape player is a hilarious high point.
Larson leads a set of appealing performances. Armie Hammer is especially memorable as a particularly suave and smug gun merchant (and wears the same stylish beard sported by The Movie Gourmet in 1978).
Written by director Ben Wheatley and his writing partner Amy Jump, Free Fire is pure Wheatley. Jump adapted his successful 2016 sci-fi High-Rise from the J.G. Ballard novel
Leaving the theater, The Wife asked me “Why did I enjoy that movie so much?”, and I replied “Because it didn’t try to be more than it was.” It tries to be a very witty shoot ’em up, and, as such, it’s very entertaining.