FREE FIRE (6 out of 10) Directed by Ben Wheatley, Written by Ben Wheatley and Amy Jump; Starring Sharlto Copley, Brie Larson, Armie Hammer, Cillian Murphy, Michael Smiley, Babou Ceesay; Running time 90 minutes; Rated R for strong violence, pervasive language, sexual references and drug use, In semi-wide release April 21, 2017.
Director Ben Wheatley offers a simple premise: what if we took the climactic shootout scene from a movie like Reservoir Dogs and made it the entire full-length movie? Add in some funny, far more gunshots than dialogue, numerous double crosses and shifting loyalties, and make sure everyone is brutally wounded but not dead as they try to get out of their gun deal gone bad, and this is the film you end up with. And you will absolutely never be able to hear John Denver's "Annie's Song" the same same way again.
Our cast includes a couple of IRA types, including Cillian Murphy, trying to buy some guns in late 1970s Boston from international arms dealer played by Sharlto Copley. Brie Larson and Armie Hammer have set up the deal with Copley's people, and when a fight breaks out between two of the lower level mooks over someone's sister and a barfight, then suddenly everyone starts shooting each other. . .in an abandoned warehouse full of guns.
Director Wheatley with his writing partner/editor/wife Amy Jump certainly know their Tarantino, Guy Ritchie, hard boiled Hong Kong action directors, but the real issue here is whether or not a full movie can be based around this single premise. What you end up with is something that maybe needed to be 20 - 30 minutes shorter and sometimes feels a little padded. But otherwise it's a pretty fun ride.
What really sells it is the cast. Brie Larson is absolutely phenomenal, and ends up being the one we're rooting for most of the movie. I simply can't wait to see her as Captain Marvel. Armie Hammer is having so much fun here, and he gets some of the best lines and moments of the film. And Sharlto Copley finds another role that just fits him perfectly, even down to being allowed to use his South African accent and verbal patter authentically. Also using his native accent is Cillian Murphy, who sheds the creepy facade he often is typecast in and is just charming and Irish.
All of that adds to a sense of realism and authenticity that is key to making this work, at least inasmuch as it does. Despite parts that feel padded, if you're a fan of the intersection of talky/funny/violent, this may be a good fit for you.
6 out of 10