Free Fire Review
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In his last film, High-Rise, director Ben Wheatley followed his characters through chaos and mayhem while they were trapped in a deteriorating apartment building. In his follow-up, Free Fire, he works with an even smaller space and just a few clashing characters to produce an even more claustrophobic thriller.

Free Fire ventures into deadly territory to make what should be a simple deal. On one side, a couple of Irishmen are in the market for several crates full of weapons. On the other side, a couple of arms dealers are happy to take their briefcase full of money. And, in the middle, Justine (Brie Larson) and Ord (Armie Hammer) have brought the whole deal together. But when one of the lackeys from one side clashes with one of the lackeys from the other, the entire arrangement erupts into a loud, deadly free-for-all.

Free Fire offers a simple story and a whole lot of chaos, with a style similar to films like Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs. The set-up is relatively quick, with everyone converging on an old, abandoned factory and going about their deal—but it’s enough to develop the cast of eccentric characters and their roles in the action. With their retro costumes, their outrageous behavior, and their snappy dialogue, they’ll quickly pull audiences into their craziness. This small cast is packed with over-the-top personalities—especially Hammer’s cheesy middleman Ord to Sharlto Copley’s wacky arms dealer Vernon—and they bring touches of laugh-out-loud humor to an often brutal thriller.

With such a simple story and such a confined space, though, there’s admittedly not a whole lot that you can do with it. Wheatley’s direction is definitely clever (and carefully choreographed), with the characters racing from one side of the space to another, finding different props to shield them from the next round of gunfire. There are grudges and battles and shaky alliances that seem to be constantly changing, which adds to the chaos of it all. It’s tense and funny and often disorienting. But there’s just so much space and just so many props. As a result, the action eventually starts to feel monotonous—and exhausting—and quite a bit longer than the 90-minute runtime.

Free Fire is witty and creative and utterly explosive, making for a noisy, chaotic, and sometimes wildly entertaining experience. But the simple story is just a little too simple—and, for that reason, the film wears out its welcome before it fills its time.

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