Free-flowing but soon begins to fire blanks…
Ben Wheatley is undoubtedly one of the most polarising directors working in the industry today. Through his rather diverse catalogue of films that he has brought to the fray in recent times, Wheatley has shocked, surprised, bemused and beguiled audiences with his own unique style of filmmaking, but for every success like Kill List there has been a marmite film such as High Rise. Looking to put the doubters to rest and present a much more traditional cinematic experience, Wheatley brings heavy action film Free Fire to us audiences, hoping to play on our love for action cinema and adding his own twist on proceedings.
Free Fire‘s premise is as simple as they come; a group of individuals meet up one night in a warehouse to complete an arms transaction that is lucrative for all parties. But when an incident occurs between said individuals, a firefight ensues, with every person caught up in the crossfire looking to find their own way out, especially at the expense of others. In fairness, for Wheatley this is a far cry from many of his previous outings, leaving the bizarre and convoluted out of the picture for a much more cinematic and throwback-esque movie that contains plenty of nods to classic action of days gone past. The only issue here is that Wheatley runs out of ideas very quickly.
The setup itself is one of fun and frivolous entertainment, the combined forces of Sharlto Copley, Michael Smiley, Armie Hammer, Brie Larson and others delivering their sharp-tongued dialogue to create a scene we’re instantly invested in. It’s an illegal deal officially going down and we’re instantly immersed in each and every character, with their own fortunes on the line and with their own specific end games. Perfectly poised and playing out like a Tarantino throwback, Free Fire hits the target within its opening 20 minutes, but it is when all hell breaks loose that Wheatley loses the plot.
It goes without saying, single location films can often find themselves lingering in desperation at some point – often meaning they tend to be of the slimmer running time – and Free Fire lingers in difficulty for much of its time when the guns are firing and our characters and ducking, diving, hiding and limping. Repetition is the name of the game here, with Wheatley and collaborator Amy Jump’s dialogue proving less than inspired, while a feeling of deja vu means that every gunshot followed by a rapid move for the next pillar of cover soon gets notoriously old. This ultimately saps the excitement out of the picture, leaving us only clinging on to the strength of the actors in character. Hammer is great as a brash gunman whose confidence with a gun only matches his smarmy nature n the face of the others, Copley is suitably over-the-top in his own special way and Larson puts it to the boys as the core female presence.
Free Fire sets up beautifully with a wealth of interesting and exciting characters, but ultimately its loses its shape and appeal when the guns go firing and the bullets come crashing to the ground. Wheatley may have changed direction in a positive way but it proves to be a step too far for the British director.
Free Fire is out on DVD and Blu-ray on August 7th.