Free fire takes place in 1978 boston and has the shoulder pads and Paisley patterned blouse to prove it. he callously uproarious new film from Ben Wheatley takes place almost entirely inside a tumbledown harbourside warehouse in Boston, Massachusetts, where a delegation from the Irish Republican Army are collecting a shipment of assault rifles from a yawping South African gun-runner and his seamy associates.
The place looks like some of the less-scenic aftermath of a nuclear attack: “Whatever they used to make here, nobody wants it now,” observes IRA dealmaker Chris (Cillian Murphy), as he and his cohorts are led through the rubble towards their fateful rendezvous with Vernon (Sharlto Copley, operating just within the uppermost limits of stomachability) and his van-load of Beretta AR-70s.
The ground is strewn with glass and dust, while every broken-down wall leers like a gap-toothed smirk. The only things that matter inside are the weapons and money – lives come a distant third – and those are all present and correct: in short, there’s absolutely nothing here worth fighting over. But that doesn’t mean the two sides won’t give it a try.
Suave middleman Ord (a luxuriantly bearded Armie Hammer) and enigmatic facilitator Justine (recent Oscar-winner Brie Larson) are the closest things to sympathetic characters Wheatley and Jump have to offer. But when the bullets start swarming, they become as brutal and reckless as the more alpha-type scumbags around them.
Alongside Murphy on the IRA side, there’s grizzled Frank (Michael Smiley, terrific) and dumb hired muscle Stevo and Bernie (Sam Riley and Enzo Cilenti), while Vernon’s associates include Martin (Babou Ceesay), Harry (a superb Jack Reynor) and Gordon (Noah Taylor), each of whom has their own agenda in play.
It’s the kind of merry mayhem that demands steely precision in terms of technique, but that’s in plentiful supply – not least in Wheatley and Jump’s whip-crack editing, Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury’s burping, parping free jazz score, and Laurie Rose’s dependably great cinematography, all jam-sticky colours and high-fibre visual grit.
with the budget just at $10m, this could be a success in the us and uk and make a few money’s. the screenplay for this film is absolutely brilliant – my favourite two scenes were:
1. When Ord meets the ira outside the warehouse, makes an extremely funny joke about stevo and bernie saying, “so why did you bring the fag and the retard?”
2. Around two-thirds through the film vernon Starts making cardboard armour, martin says, “nice cardboard armour.” vernon replies, “it’s a rhodesian special forces trick. you’d probably die of infection before getting shot.”
this is the first film of 2017 that has properly made me laugh out loud in the cinema and i highly recommend it because you wont find another film like it for the rest of the year.
worth seeing?: Yes – but it is violent and extremely rude so don’t bring your 10 year old.
by archie wingate