By Jason Yon
When I was writing movie reviews for The Elm last year, I watched and wrote about one movie per week. With the number of movies that come out each week, there was no way I could see and talk about each and every one. In the interest of keeping things fresh and up-to-date in The Elm, I was never able to go back and see things that were a few weeks old at the time. Over the summer I was able to pick up a few things on disc that I had really wanted to see and review them. “Free Fire” was the first.
The dark humor action movie “Free Fire” seemed to come out of nowhere when it dropped in late April. Despite coming from a lesser known director, Ben Wheatley, the movie features a fairly star-studded cast as well as the backing of Martin Scorsese as executive producer. The movie takes the basic concept of a back-alley deal gone wrong and draws it out into a feature length movie, although a rather short one at 90 minutes.
“Free Fire” fits into what Aristotle would have considered a perfect story. Much like the theater production “Oedipus Rex,” “Free Fire” takes place in one location in real time with no flashbacks or extras thrown in. The movie begins with the meeting between the two parties, one group selling black market guns and the other buying, and goes through their differences and arguments and ultimately conflict, a simple yet enjoyable concept.
There are two important pieces to “Free Fire:” the characters and the guns. To be honest, the characters do not really matter, but the major actors, Sharlto Copley, Cillian Murphy, and Armie Hammer, are heavily typecast and essentially play themselves. One of the major draws for me to “Free Fire” was the amazing cast list. If for nothing else, one can find enjoyment in watching Murphy and Copley interact with each other on screen. Besides them, the guns take center stage. For a movie this heavily populated with firearms, a certain level of terminology and technical accuracy would be expected, and the filmmakers did not disappoint. Every firearm is referred to properly and everything sounds great. The guns even jam a bunch of times from the dirty environment the characters crawl through. Plus, the characters miss their shots a lot of the time, which is a nice break from the perfect action hero who consistently pulls head shots. These characters felt like scummy gangsters who only had a basic understanding of the guns they were using and it worked fairly well.
Of course, it was not all good. “Free Fire” suffered minor problems here and there, the biggest problem being the runtime. Although it is a short movie, it dragged on at times because there simply is not enough story here to fill 90 minutes. There is nothing wrong with it, but most of the movie is filled with gunfire and obscenities. Story is not important here, and it does get boring at times. Other nit-picking problems come from the annoyance of a shaky camera and the long time trope of the bottomless magazine. While there is a fair amount of reloading in “Free Fire,” the characters always reach into their pockets to pull out unbelievable amounts of ammunition. It does not destroy the movie, but it is certainly one of those annoying things that can bring you out of the immersion for a few seconds.
“Free Fire” is a good movie to watch with friends to just have fun with, but not much more. It features a good mix of dark comedy and gunplay with an amazing cast, yet yields no benefit to second viewings. This movie is like almost every other indie movie put out by A24 Studios; they seem like they have potential, yet fail to produce anything spectacular. They are simply good, and nothing more.