Released tomorrow, Ben Wheatley’s follow-up to his adaptation of “High Rise” is a quirky slice of lowlife set in the gun running ganglands of 1970s Boston. With its tongue firmly in cheek and a bullet in the chamber, it’s a breezy and bonkers film which owes a great deal to the works of Quentin Tarantino.
In an abandoned Boston factory, a group of Irish terrorists arrange to buy some guns from a weapons dealer. But thanks to a bar fight from the night before, insults and bullets start flying.
There’s an undeniable eagerness to the movie and straight out of the gate it tries too hard. It’s almost too quirky, too quippy; every line of dialogue aiming for that Tarantino-esque gnomic quality that achieves quotable immortality. Unfortunately, they come so thick and so fast that few of them have time to linger long in the memory before the next witty aphorism barges it out of the way.
Much like “The Hateful Eight”, once the characters are gathered together, the film has an almost theatrical quality as events play out in a single location. Although largely confined to the one set, Wheatley keeps things visually interesting and the fantastic sound design provides plenty of atmosphere for the almost Pythonesque goings on.
Despite the action orientated setting, it’s largely a character driven piece and the performances of the cast are strong enough to compensate for the relative thinness of the plot. It’s not nearly as clever as it thinks it is and while everyone in the cast is good value, Brie Larson, in particular, feels underused and only there to keep things from being a total sausage fest. The film does sag in the middle somewhat as the constant exchange of gunfire and banter begins to run out of steam but manages to pick up momentum again for an entertainingly bonkers finale, even if the final outcome is a little bit disappointing.
Blatantly gunning for cult status, “Free Fire” has plenty of violent fun and silliness to offer, but it falls just short of greatness by choosing style over substance at every turn.