Ac­tion-com­edy Free Fire sticks to its guns and will blow you away

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Free Fire Di­rec­tor: Ben Wheatley Stars: Sharlto Copley, Cil­lian Mur­phy, Brie Larson, Michael Smi­ley, Ar­mie Ham­mer Cult- favourite Bri­tish di­rec­tor Ben Wheatley re­turns with his sixth fea­ture film, his most high-profile to date.

The cast in­cludes Brie Larson, the Os­car-winning star of Room, District 9’s Sharlto Copley, The Man from UN­CLE’s Ar­mie Ham­mer and Batman Be­gins and Peaky Blin­ders star Cil­lian Mur­phy, while the list of ex­ec­u­tive pro­duc­ers is headed by none other than Hol­ly­wood leg­end Martin Scors­ese.

De­spite a cast that spans three con­ti­nents, a pro­duc­tion team with a dis­tinctly US flavour and a premise that is un­de­ni­ably high- con­cept Hol­ly­wood – an arms deal be­tween two gangs in a dis­used fac­tory goes wrong and car­nage en­sues – Wheatley has made the movie equiv­a­lent of that most English of condi­ments, Mar­mite. In other words, you will ei­ther love it or hate it. This much was clear from mem­bers of the au­di­ence we spoke to in De­cem­ber af­ter the movie’s re­gional pre­miere at the Dubai In­ter­na­tional Film Festival.

You can un­der­stand why this film is not for every­one. There is noth­ing re­motely orig­i­nal about it – the word “de­riv­a­tive” could have been in­vented for it. Imag­ine the cli­mac­tic stand-off from Quentin Tarantino’s Reser­voir Dogs stretched out for 90 min­utes, with a script from the writ­ers of BBC TV com­edy Lit­tle Bri­tain, and you have Free Fire in a nut­shell.

It is a solid hour and a half of non- stop gun­fire, ex­plo­sions and blood­shed. By all rights, it should be ter­ri­ble.

How­ever, the al­ways on-point hus­band-and-wife writ­ing team of Wheatley and Amy Jump some­how suc­cess­fully el­e­vate the movie from dumb ac­tion ter­ri­tory into the realms of high com­edy amid the blood and guts.

Most of the film takes place in a sin­gle lo­ca­tion but thanks to Wheatley’s long-sweep­ing shots and the im­pres­sive per­for­manc- es – in par­tic­u­lar Copley’s South African would- be Al Capone, Vern, and Michael Smi­ley’s re­cov­er­ing al­co­holic Ir­ish thug, Frank – it seems much more ex­pan­sive than a sim­ple, con­fined-space bul­let fest. It is not un­com­mon in heist movies for the gang to be lum­bered with one use­less mem­ber. Here al­most every­body is a con­tender for the most in­com­pe­tent gang­ster – they are, in ef­fect, the Key­stone Crim­i­nals.

The film is loud, fast-mov­ing, and ut­terly lu­di­crous, but let the sheer ridicu­lous­ness wash over you and you are in for one of the most joy­ously en­ter­tain­ing 90 min­utes you will spend in a cin­ema.

Chris New­bould

Kerry Brown

(l-r) Ar­mie Ham­mer as Ord, Brie Larson as Jus­tine, Cil­lian Mur­phy as Chris, Sam Ri­ley as Stevo and Michael Smi­ley as Frank in Free Fire, a film that is loud, fast mov­ing and ex­tremely en­ter­tain­ing.

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