It takes great effort to produce a film centred on a group of flawed, hapless individuals and make them bearable. It takes greater effort to place those individuals in a single setting for an extended period without it becoming a bore. This indie action-comedy not only achieves both, but does so in the most glorious way possible.
Sometime during the 1970s, a group of Irish Republican Army sympathisers are preparing to make an arms trade in a dilapidated Boston warehouse. There, they meet with Vernon (Sharlto Copley), a colourful South African whose stubborn temperament doesn’t sit well with the team. To make matters worse, Vernon has failed to supply the promised M16 rifles and instead brought along a different set of automatic weapons.
Despite Vernon’s error, the team jointly agree to honour their deal, and so Vernon instructs his associate Harry (Jack Reynor, Sing Street) to bring in the remaining guns. When Harry recognises one of the IRA’s men, Stevo (Sam Riley) as the person who assaulted his cousin, tempers flare once again, resulting in Harry shooting Stevo in the shoulder. The ensuing gunfight sees multiple characters being shot from every direction, a situation made more confusing by the snipers firing from outside the warehouse.
Engaged in the crossfire are some familiar faces, among them Cillian Murphy, Brie Larson, Armie Hammer and Australia’s Noah Taylor. These particular actors are extremely likeable and talented, all making the movie more enjoyable, but even without its household names, Free Fire is still blessed with some talented personalities. All of the roles have been well-cast, with great performances from every actor – for an independently-financed film, this is quite an achievement.
Because most of the plot takes place inside a warehouse, and the motives of the characters are deliberately vague, there is an immense amount of tension to keep the audience engaged. Not knowing how the characters are going to react, or if they meet their end, means having to keep watching just to know their outcomes. As a consequence, the action scenes are more thrilling, and the comedy is much funnier. (With that said, the jokes would land even without the tension.)
Yet another enjoyable element of Free Fire is its tone. Taking cues from Martin Scorsese (who serves as an executive producer), Quentin Tarantino and Guy Ritchie, the movie finds a perfect balance between the fun moments and the darker ones, never taking itself seriously – as evidenced by the garish fashions – nor coming across as camp. In saying that, not everyone will be comfortable with the gratuitous swearing or graphic injury detail – it certainly earns that “Restricted” rating.
Free Fire overcomes any potential flaws by delivering as many thrills as it can. A fantastic cast, great action scenes, hilarious comedy, suspense aplenty and a flamboyant tone all combining to create a near-perfect viewing experience. For execution alone, it’s worth checking out.