Free Fire falls flat
It’s foolish to describe an artist’s career in terms of its trajectory, as though it were possible for anyone to plot out an oeuvre. Art simply doesn’t yield to long-term planning.
Still, where Ben Wheatley is concerned, one is tempted. The English director seemed to chart a course across the seas of creative circumstance, shores of the canon in the distance.
A kitchen-sink crime comedy (Down Terrace) begat a horror film about a hitman’s brush with the occult (Kill List). A roadmovie farce (Sightseers) occasioned a pivot into countryside psychedelia (A Field in England), as a mainstream sci-fi picture (High-Rise) loomed on the horizon. This was an auspicious route through choppy waters Wheatley devised for himself, if indeed he did devise it.
An uncharitable critic might regard such a voyage as a selfconscious demonstration of Wheatley’s versatile talent that smacks of sly careerism. Could
he really be so wily? I shouldn’t want to speculate, but Wheatley’s latest effort, the spare, plain-sailing, unmistakably slender action picture Free Fire, certainly bears out the hypothesis.
Free Fire gamely thrashes in the shabby cavern of a disused Boston warehouse in the late 1970s.
Its premise, light on shading and detail, more closely resembles the outset of a multiplayer video game than a proper feature film: two teams of five — one group nominally IRA, the other dealing in arms — descend upon a neutral location and proceed to shoot upon one another indiscriminately.
It’s an action movie in which both heroes and villains are unable to walk or even stand. This entails much crawling about and whinging. It’s meant to be funny, but it isn’t very long at all before the film has exhausted the joke.
Free Fire is a film of limited imagination; he stages and shoots the action with neither clarity nor panache, muddling the arrangement of bodies in a room and never endowing the violence with soul.
Free Fire is a film of limited imagination, writes Postmedia’s Calum Marsh.