If you’ve ever watched a film and thought: hey, I wish this gunfight went on for 85+ minutes, ‘Free Fire’ is the film for you. Stylistically presented, the film does a good job of depicting a gunfight between two groups, even if the pacing feels oddly slow in this off-the-wall action flick.
Set in Boston 1978, a trade deal in an abandoned warehouse between two groups goes horribly wrong and ends up with both sides in an all out gunfight for survival. We get tiny snippets of character woven between the action scenes that dominate this film and there’s enough downtime between the fighting to get some sharp humour and dialogue that break up the tense stand offs. Its a pity then that these interactions between characters quickly devolve into shouting profanities at one another and crawling from one spot to another rather than meaningful character development as the film rolls on.
There are good characters here though, even if I felt like there were a tad too many for my liking. One of the star cast in particular really stood out for me among the others. Peppered with humour and South African wit, Norman (Sharlto Copey) oozes charisma and has some of the best lines in the film. Other stand outs, although not quite at the same level, include Justine (Brie Larson) and Ord (Armie Hammer). Its a pity then that Chris (Cillian Murphy) is not as well developed as some of the other characters, despite being one of the lead protagonists and his character never strays far from “wants to date Justine.” which is disappointing.
The whole film confidently flaunts its gritty art style and although some might be put off by the sheer number of profanities littered throughout, it actually works with the overall niche effect the film is going for. Despite its great art and sharp wit, the film suffers from some serious pacing issues. This isn’t helped by the sheer number of scenes depicting people crawling. Crawling up the stairs, crawling across the floor, crawling behind moving cars etc. And whilst I understand during the tense shootout they need to keep their heads down, I did feel like it was a bit excessive. When the most exciting part of the film is seeing the characters on their feet walking, it speaks volumes.
The trouble with ‘Free Fire’ stems from hilariously bad gun accuracy from the film’s characters and how quickly they were all debilitated but not killed. I’ve already mentioned about the crawling but furthermore, most of the action, especially toward the middle portion of the film, resulted in a couple of deep breaths, shouting an obscenity, firing blindly in the general direction of one of the characters and slumping back down in cover again. Rinse and repeat. The opening shots of the gunfight are arguably the best but the longer the fight goes on, the more it feels like it drags.
When a warehouse choked in dull browns, blacks and the occasional white is the only setting in the film, it does accentuate the problems the film has. Its simple premise aside, there just isn’t much else to take away here apart from the gunfight and even that feels tedious at times. The film feels like one drawn out act rather than 3 distinct acts apparent in other films. There will undoubtedly be those who adore this film. Its art style and sharp wit run rampant here and you can tell the actors had fun making this film.
Like a Tarantino film, Free Fire has such a distinct style that it will almost certainly be an acquired taste whether this film agrees with you or not. The script is good, and the acting is very well done throughout, despite a lack of character development. Iif the idea of an 85 minute gunfight seems like a snoozefest, this certainly will not be to your liking. For everyone else though, Free Fire is a good fun, smartly written gunfight set in a single warehouse. Norman steals the show with his smart wit and when the deaths do start happening, they feel satisfying and well done. Whilst Free Fire won’t be for everyone, its a good fun film that never takes itself too seriously despite its numerous problems.
Verdict - 5/10