A wise man once said that all you need to make a movie is a girl and a gun. British filmmaker Ben Wheatley doesn’t let his entry in the tough-guy canon tweak that formula per se – he just ups the ante substantially on the second part. Set in a Seventies Boston of mile-wide lapels and John Denver 8-tracks, this high-concept, high-caliber crime thriller maneuvers a handful of round-the-way hoods, a couple of IRA gents (Cillian Murphy, Michael Smiley), some dapper arms dealers (Armie Hammer, Sharlto Copley, Babou Ceesay) and their broker (Brie Larson) into an abandoned warehouse. The Irish visitors want to buy assault rifles for the cause back home; the salesman are happy to oblige. Money, guns and trash talk are exchanged. It’s just a matter of time before the metaphorical spark hits the fuse. So it’s no surprise when a driver (Sing Street‘s Jack Reynor) recognizes one of the other party’s hired help (Sam Riley) as the no-good, two-bit junkie fucker who glassed his cousin. And everything quickly goes Peckinpah.
You ever watch a film with a showstopping gunfight and thought, would that I could literally stop the show and just watch this for hours? Congratulations, your wish has almost come true. Once pieces get pulled, the rest of Free Fire‘s 90-minute running time is devoted nothing but one long bullet-ridden set piece, in which the various players get winged and wounded while scrambling around in the real-time cinematic equivalent of a bottle episode. The occasional wild card gets dropped in – seemingly random snipers join the fray; everybody, watch out for those propane tanks! – but for the most part, it’s all ballistics and hardboiled banter.
Some folks score more points than others: Murphy does a familiar variation on his cool-cucumber Peaky Blinders‘ antihero;