Set in a colorful yet gritty 1970s Boston, Free Fire opens with Justine (Oscar® winner Brie Larson), a mysterious American businesswoman, and her wise-cracking associate Ord (Armie Hammer) arranging a black-market weapons deal in a deserted warehouse between IRA arms buyer Chris (Cillian Murphy) and shifty South African gun runner Vernon (Sharlto Copley). What starts as a polite if uneasy exchange soon goes south when tensions escalate and shots are fired, quickly leading to a full-on Battle Royale where it’s every man (and woman) for themselves.

Packed with witty one-liners, flamboyant characters and remarkable feats of cinematic gunplay, Free Fire is a full-throttle action extravaganza that keeps things fresh and fun with Ben Wheatley’s alternately buoyant and savage sense of humor. Swinging from the madcap to the macabre and back again, the film is an exhilarating experience that will leave you quite literally blown away.

What We Thought:

Free Fire is a pretty solid flick. It’s a lot funnier than I expected which helps what is pretty much a single-setting film.

Although not shot in Boston, the film is based in 1970’s Boston and involves mobsters, the Irish, hired guns and more. Cillian Murphy wants to buy guns from Sharlto Copley to send back to Ireland. They turn out not to be the guns he wanted and the situation gets heavy. Then one of his associates notices a man on the other side who he tussled with the night before and the whole thing ends up in a free fire.

Take the heaviness of Reservoir Dogs and cut it with one liners and you get this film. There’s lot of shooting and action, but almost every character gets at least one line that breaks the tone. Copley is always funny and he seems to be channeling his inner Rhys Darby here. He has some fantastic lines. Armie Hammer is a nice surprise too. I’ve liked him since The Social Network and he plays a sharp dressed, good-looking man very nicely. Brie Larson handles herself well opposite all the testosterone. She gets hit on by pretty much every main character and has some great back and forth with Murphy.

The standout to me is Jack Reynor. I thought he was fantastic as the older brother in Sing Street and he impressed me here as well. He has a great way of delivering lines and I can see him being around for a while. He’s on my radar for sure.

I have some small issues with the film though. They make a big deal out of the guns they receive because they aren’t what they ordered. The guns they receive wouldn’t be hugely popular in the US at the time. I believe they called them AR-17 which is a shotgun. The AR-18 was the rifle the Provisional IRA used and were a fan of, but the AR-18 had a very limited production run in the US. The AR-17 is a pump-action shotgun that looks nothing like the rifles shown and used in the film. UPDATE: A friend thinks they might have said AR70 which is closer to what the gun looks like in the film, but if it is AR70, that would be wrong as well since those weren’t developed until the 1980s.

Also, how is not one person (besides the hired guns) a decent shot in the film? Every character seems to get winged in the leg or arm multiple times. I understand not everyone there was a pro, but come on. Murphy picks up an AR to test it and shoots up a wall pretty well. He should have been a decent shot. I understand you can’t get everyone killed in the first 20 minutes, but every character seemed to have to drag themselves around because they were each shot in the leg.

Besides the couple of issues with it, I did like Free Fire. There’s enough laughter to keep it light and not super heavy. The cast is full of people I enjoy and it’s short enough to not lose your attention. Director Ben Wheatley has been hit or miss for me, but I’d definitely watch this again and probably own it on Blu-ray as well.

Cast & Crew:

  • Sharlto Copley
  • Armie Hammer
  • Brie Larson
  • Cillian Murphy
  • Jack Reynor
  • Director Ben Wheatley

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