From Ben Wheatley, the mind behind films such as Sightseers and Highrise comes the new comedy Free Fire. The film follows the story of a Boston arms deal gone wrong. After gun dealer Vernon (Sharlto Copley) supplies his buyers, Chris and Frank (Cillian Murphy and Michael Smiley respectively) with the wrong type of guns. Things turn sour fast. With such a simple premise, it leaves effectively an hour long shoot out, entirely set in a run-down warehouse.
From the trailer alone, you see almost every character get shot, and they get shot more than once in this film, to the point where you almost expect to be handed a score sheet like at laser tag, detailing who shot who and how many times once you leave the cinema. But what Free Fire does spectacularly is balancing the tension of any of the characters could see their end, along with comedic writing.
Rather than cheap jokes, or ridiculous situations, it comes from insults traded back and forth between the cast, often off-screen which makes them all the funnier, along with how casual the whole shootout is in the first place. This accompanied with hilarious stellar performances from Sharlto Copley and Armie Hammer as Ord, Vernon’s representative at the deal. Whilst Copley’s greatest moments come from his pitiful attempts to get his crew to put themselves in harms way for him, and off screen, insults being traded back and forth with his trademark South African accent. Hammer, on the other hand, plays the ever calm and mostly unwilling participant in the shoot-out, taking frequent breaks from his single hiding spot to light up a cigarette.
Taking a leaf out of the films of Hitchcock and Tarantino, Free Fire separates itself from most modern films that have the need to explain every aspect. It shares a similar formula to David Slade’s 2005 film Hard Candy, by having the entire film focus on a minuscule cast (granted, not quite as minuscule as the 2 featured in Hard Candy) but you leave knowing next to nothing about them. The film leaves plenty to the imagination of the viewer, which lets you come to your own conclusion as to how these two parties got into the business and even what the guns are for. The main fault however with the film is the lack of a proper climax, but to the writer’s credit, a huge gunfight is usually considered the climax of any other film of the sort.
Free Fire is a testament to the British indie film industry. With snappy dialogue, and well-paced action that allows for the film like this to not become dull. When it is unclear which, if any characters could be the last standing it keeps the tension high right to the last shot.