Directed by Ben Wheatley
Country: UK / France
I want to start this review by telling you how much I admire the work of British director Ben Wheatley.
“Kill List”, a bleak and violent tale released in 2011, was an auspicious directorial debut, but it was with the pitch-black comedy “Sightseers” that he really got my attention, punching me hard in the face with witty dialogues, provocative weirdness, and the unpredictability of its story. In 2013, Wheatley changed direction when he released the black-and-white art-house horror-drama “A Field in England”, which kept a stabbing sarcasm on top of the stunning visuals. “High-Rise”, a somewhat blurred adaptation of J.G Ballard’s 1975 novel of the same name, divided both film critics and fans. Yet, I was still fond of all its oddness.
Now, I have to point out how frustrated I am with Wheatley’s new feature “Free Fire”, a Tarantino-esque gangster-western set in the 70s Boston that doesn’t offer much more than the constant, annoying sounds of guns being fired.
The screenplay, co-written by Wheatley and his regular associate Amy Jump, lives exclusively from the shootouts between two groups involved in an arms deal. There are so many gunshots throughout the 90 minutes that the tension gets lost in the confusing, bloody sauce.
Vernon (Sharito Copley) leads the group selling the weaponry while Frank (Michael Smiley), an irritable IRA member commands the buyers. A woman named Justine (Brie Larson) was assigned to act as an intermediate and facilitate the transaction. The gangs arrive at a warehouse to proceed with the business but things get out of control when Harry (Jack Reynor) recognizes Stevo (Sam Riley), the one who had abused of his 15-year-old cousin the night before, sending her to the hospital. Tension rises exponentially, ending up in a never-ending collective shootout that is triggered after Harry sticks a bullet into Stevo’s shoulder. The warehouse is transformed into a bloody battlefield where everyone, with no exception, has the eyes put in a suitcase full of money.
In opposition to the previous films of Wheatley, I couldn’t care less about any of the obtuse characters presented here. Stuck inside four walls and exposed to the madness of the environment, some of them cry, some laugh, some other curse or joke around in response to those who threaten with brash vocabulary and open fire. What could have been fun becomes dull while the potential points of interest rapidly vanish through inconsequent fireworks, graphic violence, and immodest poses.
The only thing left for me to do was to place my bets and wait to see who takes the money home.
Lacking charm in its depiction and cleverness in its dialogue, “Free Fire” is gratuitous fire and a thorn in Ben Wheatley’s side.