Free Fire

Apr 19, 2017

A joy to witness even if flawed.

Free Fire

Grade: B+

Director: Ben Wheatley (High Rise)

Screenplay: Wheatley, Amy Jump (Kill List)

Cast: Sharlto Copley (District), Brie Larson (Room)

Rating: R

Runtime: 1 hr 30 min

by John DeSando

Free Fire is a free-for-all action/thriller as comic as it is bloody. Two gangs fire it out in a warehouse over contraband rifles on the rifles’ way to Ireland, but the real action is in the sharp and witless comments rifled off during the fight to get the money or get out.

The comedy comes often but not always as witty as this comment about one of the ringleaders: “Vernon was misdiagnosed as a child genius and never got over it.” Generally the barbs are flying like bullets, some coming out of nowhere in the cavernous Boston warehouse circa 1978.

Although filmed in Brit director Ben Wheatley’s Brighton, the bell bottoms and moll Justine’s (Brie Larson) Farah Fawcett do place us right in the trashy part of Bean Town. Except that the film seems a bit contrived and formulaic, it’s still a joy to witness.

Although the mayhem gets deadlier with each passing minute, it never seems as serious as it would be in real life. In fact, this cavalier attitude is charming (Armie Hammer as Ord is the best for nonchalance), as if the film wants you to see what Tarantino would have done with it, as much as it resembles the smaller-scale Reservoir Dogs.  The rough banter is Scorsese (a producer of Free Fire) and the plethora of bullets puffing through clothing is as much Peckinpah as any other master of violence.

The only woman, Justine, is the only civilized human under this roof as she quietly retorts to both men and bullets in soft barbs that belie a murderous mien. Her wisecracking is the equal of any man’s, but her firmness is better when she calls the other gang’s switching the type of gun: “That’s not what he ordered.” This frolic is exactly what I ordered at a notoriously slow time of movie year.

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at