It’s that time of year again. That time of year in which I abandon film for a multitude of high-concept, big-budget quality television programming. Preacher, Better Call Saul, Fargo, House of Cards, Fear The Walking Dead, American Gods, Game of Thrones, Rick and Morty are all making returns at relatively the same time, with The Mist and Twin Peaks beginning the midst of all this fantastic programming. All the while I try to catch up on Stephen King’s Under The Dome and Louis Theroux’ documentaries on Netflix. The only way in which I could possibly excuse the insane amount of time in which I devote to entertainment and escapism is to call this problem a devotion to the arts. Makes it sound a little better, does it not?
With that being said, I recently caught Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire, a film of which had been on my radar for quite some time. I love films like this, darkly comic, loud and brash, stylishly violent. Though I’ve not yet seen High Rise, Wheatley’s films have been strong thus far, with Kill List and Sightseers among my personal favourites. That hammer to the fingers in the latter movie still makes my stomach barrel roll, and the way in which each of the three acts in Kill List almost changes the genre with fluidity is quite remarkable. When the trailer released, I dug the 70s vibe, I dug that Sharlto Copley, Brie Larson, and Cillian Murphy were involved, and I dug the idea of an explosive yet simple one-location set-up.
Wheatley’s action-comedy hits all the right notes. Lines and performances are often hilarious, and the 70s style, suits and hair do’s add to the hilarity. A little like Reservoir Dogs, the film focuses on a gun deal gone bad due to an event that occurred off-screen between two men on either side of the deal, involving one man’s cousin. Once the story is set-up, it is to be quickly forgotten in place of booming gun fire. Rocks, crowbars and witty dialogue are thrown about in the dilapidated warehouse location as the two groups exchange fire. What is impressive is how entertaining the film remains considering the confines of its singular location.
It’s hard to really root for any of the major players, but that seems to be the point. They are all ass holes, criminals, or both, and we are to sit there and witness their bloody, violent, often comedic deaths as the film dominoes to its satisfying and fitting conclusion. Plot and character motives or development are left by the wayside and, in this case, for a good reason. If a film can entertain long enough on practical effects, a location with a character of its own and some gallows humour, story and development, as with Dredd or The Raid, can be pushed out of a window, riddled with bullets, set alight and crushed under a large van.
On that note, it’s hard to really criticize the film further. It’s a wild piece of entertainment as it was intended to be – performances are top-notch, the script is as fresh and funny as you would wish for, and visual effects and movement in the confines of the location are precise and well-executed. All the while Wheatley playfully toys with a simple yet effective narrative, wicked dialogue and great character.
The Film Fanatic