Hot Take: If you think this is a Tarantino rip off, you’re not watching close enough. It’s more of an homage to 70s and 80s action or a Guy Ritchie rip off than anything. It’s actually a good bit of fun though. How often do you get to experience a 62 minute shootout?
Sometimes film critics get obsessed with making a connection between two films and dwelling on it. That seems to be the case with Free Fire and Reservoir Dogs. It’s easy to relate the two movies since both films have a memorable warehouse showdown. Unlike Reservoir Dogs, Free Fire doesn’t give you a clear cut good guy to root for in the film and Ben Wheatley and Amy Jump’s script for Free Fire isn’t nearly as wordy or filled with pop culture references as Quentin Tarantino’s directorial début and Free Fire‘s plot unravels in about 15-20 minutes before launching into what has to be the longest shootout in movie history while Reservoir Dogs experiences a slower burn and a much different feel. Saying both of these films are comparable would be like saying LeBron James and myself are comparable since we both wear Nike and have dribbled a basketball.
That’s not to say Free Fire is a bad film. It’s also not to say it doesn’t have a noticeable influence either. Set in the 1970s as evidenced by bad clothing and a van with an 8-track player and a John Denver soundtrack, Free Fire has a feel that is very 70s or early 80s. The influence is more general than specific as it appears to attempt to catch the vibe of action films of that era while a faint whiff of Guy Ritchie can be picked up with a few sniffs. However, even the Ritchie comparison might be a little lazy but I think it’s closer to accurate than the Tarantino one.
The film’s plot is simple. In an abandon warehouse in Boston, an arms deal between two members of the IRA (Cillian Murphy and Michael Smiley) and two gun runners (Sharlto Copley and Babou Ceesay) brokered by two other parties (Brie Larson and Armie Hammer) goes south fast when two of the underlings (Jack Reynor and Sam Riley) realize they had a run-in the night before over an unrelated issue. Rather quickly, the movie devolves into a shootout which epically lasts for 2/3 of the movie’s brief 90 minute run time.
The shootout itself is worth the price of admission. While its hard to argue that a shootout that clocks in at 62 minutes isn’t overly long, it’s enjoyable enough and entirely different than most shootouts we’ve seen unfold on screen. It’s a messy, uneven, sometimes silly sequence with a fair amount of deadpan humor. Since just about every participant in the gunfight has a wound in the first few minutes of the shootout, it’s not a spoiler to mention that fact, I don’t think. Considering the double digit number of participants, that’s a lot of wounds.
Free Fire is one of those films that if it catches you on the right day, you’ll really enjoy it. It also feels like you could watch it a few days later when you aren’t in the mood and absolutely hate it. Filled with dark humor and a B-movie flair, there’s enough going on in and around the prolonged gun battle that it’s not completely mindless. This will likely get a nice run on cable and be everyone’s favorite movie to happen upon at 3am. Well, not everyone all of the time, just some of the time.
“Spoiler Free” Pros
- Arms & Hammer
There’s a lot of talk of guns and subsequent firing of guns throughout the film. The best talker of the bunch is Armie Hammer who plays Ord. One of the two dealmakers in the movie, Hammer is the most talkative and seemingly seasoned of those involved. Free Fire doesn’t really have any heroes or villains so you can pick and choose who you’re pulling for but I could see a lot of people siding with Hammer.
- Who Are You Pulling For?
As mentioned previously, you’ll likely take sides in the film. Hammer’s wit, Cillian Murphy’s chivalry and Brie Larson’s damsel in distress turned gunfighter are the favorites on the board as the likely fan favorites. What makes Free Fire unique though is that whomever you pull for, you’re probably both right and wrong.
“Spoiler Free” Cons
- The Obligatory Comparisons to Tarantino and Ritchie
While neither comparison is entirely fair, co-writer and director Wheatley’s stylistic shootout flick has enough in common with the work of both of these filmmakers to draw some comparisons and maybe a little bit of ire. Like many of its characters, these flesh wounds make it difficult for the film to stand on its own.
- Maybe 62 Minutes for a Gunfight is a Bit Ridiculous