Sometimes, a whole movie can rely its entire story or motivation based on one element. It can be the time period, it can be the nature of why the characters are meeting and interacting, and it can be dependent on the location: in the case of “Free Fire”, it’s all three. Many films have depicted the bloody aftermath of drug deals and illegal trading gone horribly wrong, happens in fictional life and real life all the time. “Free Fire” gives you that same setup, only the deal is literally half of the movie, and the rest is where it takes place when all the bloody shooting goes down. It’s a story trapped in its own environment by choice. It’s a creative choice, but also one that limits possibilities, but when you got a movie about trading illegal guns called “Free Fire”, there’s only so many ways it can go.
Set in Boston in 1978, two criminal meet up at a deserted warehouse to make a purchase of illegal weapons from one of the gangs. Tension and personal rivalries between the two gangs erupt into a full-blown shootout. Now the gangs have pinned each other in this warehouse, trying to gun down each other with the illegal weapons until the last person is left standing. The plot for this may seem short but that’s because that’s the long and short of the entire movie. Once the deal goes south, the rest of the movie is pretty much a slow pace shoot out with a bunch of pissed off arms dealers trying to riddle everyone in the immediate area with as many bullets as possible.
This movie is completely upfront with what it’s all about. No hidden meanings, empowering morals or philosophical proclamations…just a bunch of pissed off crooks trying to blow each other away with stolen guns. It’s a strange concept to have a shootout movie with a slow pace. It takes a good while before anyone makes any headway in killing the other, but with enough humor and interesting enough characters, it manages to keep you entertained…for the most part. When you’re restricted to one single location, you want to make sure the people stuck in that location are interesting enough to keep you from losing focus. While the people certainly are, I have to admit, I was a bit disappointed at the humor’s sporting more misfires than bullseyes.
There are a lot of strong performers, who can easily intensify the humor of the situation, and they do their best to do so, but it often feels like the script lacks the bite to really deliver a quality chuckle when it needs to. The cast is really what drew me to seeking this film out, and they really did not disappoint. I always say that even if you have the best-written story in the world, if you don’t care about whom you’re watching then no one will want to finish it. The likes of Armie Hammer, Sharlto Copely, Brie Larson and Cillian Murphy are a dynamite cast together. Even when it’s just them, hiding over barrels shooting at each other over the house of 2 hours, I’m still having fun because they know how to put on a good show and deliver memorable performances; each one of them. Even when the humor fails you, the cast does not.
To the film’s credit, they do try and sneak in some surprises amongst the bullets and bloody bodies. It’s not much but then again, like I said before, the environment is more the star of the show than the cast and its limitation is its key component. I guess the biggest problem I’m struggling with is the fact that the film feels like it could have gone one step more to make this truly memorable. Films like “The Shallows” and “Phone Booth” restrict themselves to one location and still make things compelling and interesting, and yes, sometimes even a bit funny. “Free Fire” lets it’s star power be its firepower, but when the script fails to land jokes when it needs do and focuses too much on what’s going on rather than who this is happening to, you start to see pretty much everyone and everything to do with this film can’t go very far.
Overall, “Free Fire” is a fun, slightly inventive idea that just didn’t try hard enough to take it far enough. The casting, the characters and the flaring tension of all these men and women trapped in one place with bullets flying everywhere, it makes a solidly entertaining action film worth investing too. But it fails to move any distance further outside of its warehouse secluded shell, and ultimately the concept that made the film more inventive ended up making it more limited than anything else.
I give “Free Fire” 2 stars out of 4.