Six years after his film “Kill List” premiered here, director Ben Wheatley returns to SXSW with his film “Free Fire.” The film focuses on a group of criminals who meet to broker a gun sale in a large warehouse. Chaos soon ensues as the exchange goes horribly wrong, and the characters find themselves in a battle royale of gunfire from all sides, trying to make it out of that warehouse alive.
Based on the opening minutes of the film, I didn’t think I was going to like it—I expected a generic shoot-’em-up flick. While I can’t say “Free Fire” blew me away, I was pleasantly surprised by it.
The film has a certain charm about it, making use of its humorous dialogue and impressive cast. Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, Sharlto Copley and Armie Hammer star in the action-comedy. The plot is relatively simple, so the actors’ portrayals of the characters act as the driving force of the production. Witty lines are exchanged as rapidly as gunfire, and the performers infuse a lot of charisma into their roles, particularly Copley.
The ensemble cast is commendable, but I was disappointed by the lack of inclusion of female characters. Brie Larson is the only female performer in the film. While Larson, normally associated with dramatic roles, was able to show off her comedic chops, her character was the object of affection for both Murphy’s and Copley’s characters, which, to me, limited the scope of her role.
The entire film also takes place in the warehouse, and this is both a strength and a weakness of “Free Fire.” On one hand, this setting makes the film nice and simple, focusing our attention on the actors and the action. However, looking at the same scenery and backgrounds over and over again gets stale. Wheatley makes the most of the space, showing the characters crawling around on the ground and through hallways, wounded from all the gunshots. However, the sequences became too repetitive after awhile.
“Free Fire” certainly isn’t the type of film I would seek out on my own, but its humor, exciting action and gunfights thoroughly entertained me. There’s nothing groundbreaking about it, but it’s a good time for viewers looking for a mindless, fun action film.