In association with Glasgow Film Festival 2017
Following the success of 2015 sci-fi hit High Rise comes Ben Wheatley’s claustrophobic 70s gangster shoot-out Free Fire. The set-up is simple; Frank (Michael Smiley) and Chris (Cillian Murphy) are in Boston to buy a cache of weapons for the IRA. A chance bar fight the previous night between one of their men and the arms dealer’s driver re-erupts in the middle of the deal, and the scene rapidly becomes all-out war.
Wheatley’s direction is greatly in debt to Quentin Tarantino here; from the 70s dad-rock soundtrack, to the grind house-style titles, to the cast of wisecracking, inept gangsters. Wheatley and co-scriptwriter Amy Jump’s sense of humour, however, is distinctly more British, and is less sardonic than it is deeply silly.
Performances are strong across the board, but the real stand-out is newcomer Sharlto Copley as eccentric South African arms dealer Vernon. “Misdiagnosed as a child genius & never recovered”, according to Brie Larson’s character Justine, Copley steals just about every scene he appears in, due in equal part to the fact he gets all the best lines and the fact that South African is the funniest accent in the world.
Overall, the film doesn’t quite grab you in the way I was hoping; the constant interludes of gunshots between snappy dialogue can become more repetitive than exciting, and the single-setting motif has been used to greater effect elsewhere. Some of the more fun characters are killed off a little early, too, somewhat altering the tone of the final act after the films previous exuberance. But it is objectively very funny, and a real treat for fans of both the classic gangster movie and of loving pastiche in the vein of Tarantino or Edgar Wright. It’s not quite Reservoir Dogs, but it’s an undeniably good time.
[Clare Patterson – @clarepttrsn]