From the first trailer on, I was set on seeing this film: after all, one doesn’t alway get to see an all-out battle royale with automatic weapons in a confined setting. But sadly, this movie should’ve been a whole lot better than it was.
The plot setup’s pretty simple: when an IRA arms deal in an abandoned warehouse goes awry, two groups of criminals (among whom are Cillian Murphy, Armie Hammer, Brie Larson, and Sharlto Copley) promptly find themselves splintered and blasting away at everything in sight—including, all too often, the folks on their own side. As soon as the bullets start flying, everyone hits the floor, crawling behind whatever cover they can find.
Sound fun? I thought so too.
There are a lot of Hollywood legends who probably could’ve pulled this off—Guy Ritchie, Troy Duffy, and obviously Quentin Tarantino all come to mind—but director Ben Wheatley is not one of them. I certainly didn’t think I’d be writing this, but “Free Fire” is criminally boring. Most of this movie is spent watching injured people huddle behind piles of broken concrete. Then somebody moves abruptly, and one or two bullets are fired. Maybe someone gets injured. (Repeat ad infinitum). Maybe this is how sustained gunfights actually work, but in this context, it’s an odd concession to realism, and highlights one of the movie’s biggest flaws: simply put, “Free Fire” plays things far too safe. Just off the top of my head, I can come up with plenty of ways to ratchet up the insanity:
– Fewer pistols and more automatic rifles. And folks need to be firing constantly.
– Carpet the whole floor with spent shell casings. Seriously, carpet it. Have people slipping and sliding on spent brass.
– Pockmark every surface in sight with bullet holes.
– When someone gets injured, they need to do something about it. Maybe they cauterize their injuries with a curling iron or something similarly outlandish.
– Where’s the music? You’d think we could get a little “Don’t Fear (The Reaper)” or “Runnin’ With the Devil” in the background.
All that to say: “Free Fire” really needed to be fun and entertaining, and it’s not.
Other redeeming virtues are hard to come by. Brie Larson is always fun to watch (and the closest thing to a real protagonist this film gets), but by and large, the cast is just a lineup of bullet sponges. I could squint hard and try to come up with some social commentary (maybe it’s a satirical piece about how violent video games are really terrible for the world?) but that’s pushing it. On and on this film drags, despite a short 85-minute runtime, and it only really picks up at the very end.
For all its initial potential, this movie is not worth your time (even when it’s 11pm, you’re cruising through Netflix, and you still have a couple Heinekens and a few pizza slices left). As it so happened, a bit of early dialogue between thugs proved unfortunately ironic:
Gangster #1: “After you get shot, you’ve got about an hour and a half before you bleed out.”
Gangster #2: “Well, how much longer do I have to go?”
That, my friend Gangster #2, was the very same question I asked myself.
“Free Fire”? Try “Free Naptime.”
Normalized Score: 0.0