Last year, acclaimed director Ben Wheatley treated us to the wonderful High Rise. A year later and he's back, this time with  Free Fire - making its debut at this year's Glasgow Film Festival, here's my review of the action flick.

Free Fire is outright awesome. This film is nuts. Imagine The Hateful Eight, but shorter and funnier and with a bit of Wheatley flare thrown in for good measure: that's Free Fire. And it's a total blast. The film is set in Boston, in 1978; in a deserted warehouse, a civil meeting to sell and buy guns between two gangs goes terrifically awry when Stevo (Sam Riley) finds he has unresolved business with one of the members of the other group, Harry (Jack Reynor), causing chaos aplenty and a shootout to ensue between both gangs. As bullets start firing and the body count begins to rise, a game of survival quickly breaks out as everyone fights to, well, not get shot and die.

Honestly, the premise is as simple as that and it's in this simplicity in which Free Fire thrives; this is a film that doesn't focus on the notion of having a rich, overcomplicated and convoluted premise but rather keeps it simple and rather relishes in its action and in the comedy and in being as entertaining as possible, delivering as an old-fashioned, in essence, 90-minute long shootout. Ben Wheatley's direction here is great and the action is helmed with such energy that it makes Free Fire tons of fun to watch - it's relentless and bloody too; Wheatley doesn't hold back at all with the violence. This is perhaps just as big a flaw, though, as it is a positive; the action is so energetic and insane that it can get a little too frenetic to follow along at times. Free Fire is stacked to the teeth with characters that, with everyone on the trigger, it can get a little dizzying to follow along with just who's shooting at who. However, as action-packed as this film is, it's also as equally hilarious. The bullets are whizzing every few seconds and the comedy is flowing thick and fast just as often, with sharp writing and a screenplay with its finger on the pulse providing a barrage of great humour and non-stop laughs from the opening scene to the very last.
As I mentioned above, Free Fire is overstuffed with characters - the large majority of whom are fairly memorable. Wheatley's writing is on-the-ball and, as good a job at balancing humour and action as he does, he also manages to really develop these characters and make them feel real; grounding the proceedings that little bit more. These feel like genuine people actually going through this situation and, despite being so crazy and insane from time to time, with all of the action and humour, it all feels so very real. The performances are great too, as expected from a cast featuring the talents of Brie Larson, Armie Hammer, Cillian Murphy, Michael Smiley, and Sharlto Copley, amongst others. Larson, Hammer, and Murphy are a powerhouse trio, leading the film, but it's undoubtedly Copley that steals the show; his character Vernon steals every scene he is in, taking the belly shares of the film's laughs, and Sharlto Copley looks like he's having the best time playing such a brilliant character. There is veritable chemistry between this cast too, and it's easy to believe all these relationships and to invest in the characters and what's going on.

In the end, Free Fire is a riotous delight. It's slick and stylish and gorgeously shot, with a beautifully captured dingy orange aesthetic, and the punchy soundtrack accompanies all of the chaotic action so perfectly. Again, this is by no means a flawless film and it can get a little too frenetic and chaotic for its own good at times, with the pace moving too fast to really follow along properly. However, even this can't take away from the fact that Ben Wheatley has created another gem - again: think pulpier Tarantino. Free Fire is action-packed and violent, yet just as grounded with heart and levity, and equally as hilarious and witty too. It's insane - in all the best ways possible, though. Free Fire is one of the most entertaining cinemagoing experiences I've had in a long time, and it's going to be hard to top.

Free Fire is action-packed, hilarious, and just absolutely insane - in all the best ways possible - and a ridiculously delightful thrill ride.

About the Author

Awais Irfan
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.

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