In the late 90’s it seemed everyone wanted to be the next “Pulp Fiction”, it felt like everywhere you looked, there was another movie trying to be a clever/original crime movie. Films like “Go”, “2 Days in the Valley”, and “The Big Hit” all ‘missed’ the mark. You can be like “Pulp Fiction”, but you can’t be ‘Pulp Fiction”. Some films understood this, and succeeded where the afore mentioned failed. “The Way of the Gun”, “Suicide Kings”, and “The Boondock Saints” almost got there. But now that we are over two decades removed from Tarantino, so much so the man doesn’t have a genre, he is his own genre. Now, there is room for some originality to breathe in the kooky-but-violent-crime genre. Enter “Free Fire”.
It’s the late seventies and an Irish gang is looking to buy some heavy duty fire power for an unknown reason. They utilize a middle man or in this case, woman in Bree Larson (Kong: Skull Island) to ensure the deal goes smoothly. Though the sellers have the same idea and bring their own negotiator, Armie Hammer (The Lone Ranger) to keep things business-like. Even though you have one side with non-professionals led by Cillian Murphy (Inception, Batman Begins) and the flashy mildly more experienced crew led by Sharlto Copley (District 9). It only takes about 15 minutes to meet all involved as they arrive at an abandoned warehouse, you get the gist of who’s who in the crime movie stereotype on both sides: the elder, the hot-head, the comic relief, and the professional. Then as you’d imagine something goes wrong, and guns are drawn, which leads to probably the longest gun-fight in cinema history.
Of the films mentioned above, I would put “Free Fire”in the happy middle. It may not have the re-watchness of “Suicide Kings” or “The Way of the Gun”, but it certainly requires a re-watch as the quips and insults are as rapid fire as the bullets that fly around the entire film. Some zing so fast or in the background over the gun shots you have to laugh at the absurdity of the situation even if you didn’t hear the joke. Sure it could count as a gimmick, a 85 minute shoot-out, but for me it was original enough that director Ben Wheatley (Kill List, High-Rise) and his frequent collaborator, writer Amy Jump make this a fun-filled fight with flesh wounds galore.
Most of the cast give just enough to make the film enjoyable and at times straight-up hilarious, but don’t quite elevate it to a soon-to-be-classic, which is still hard to believe with talent like Noah Taylor, Larson, and Murphy. The stand-outs here for sure are Jack Reynor from last year’s underrated “Sing Street” and Armie Hammer from the even more underrated “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”. There is funny violence along with gruesome ones, with the shooting stopping and starting long enough for the lighting up of joints, checking their look in the mirror, and people switching alliances throughout. With the ever present comparisons to Tarantino anytime a film has fast talking criminals having absurd everyday conversations during acts of violence, “Free Fire” has enough going for it to make a lasting impression. Maybe not a top ten contender, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find in on my blu-ray shelf one day.