Di­rec­tor Ben Wheat­ley on the killer shots of Free Fire

Empire (UK) - - CONTENTS - WORDS chris he­witt

Ben Wheat­ley talks us through ev­ery ma­jor shot in his en­sem­ble gun­fight movie. When we say shot, we mean the loud things that go bang.

THERE ARE 312 shots fired in anger (and panic, and fear, and rank in­com­pe­tence) in Free

Fire, Ben Wheat­ley’s ri­otous tale of an arms deal-turned-shoot-out. But not all those bul­lets have the same im­pact. Wheat­ley talks us through the bul­lets that mat­ter the most. SHOT #1 Harry shoots Stevo things kick off when harry (Jack reynor) shoots stevo (sam ri­ley) in the up­per chest as pay­back for stevo’s un­pro­voked at­tack on harry’s cousin in a Bos­ton bar. “It was al­ways go­ing to be those two char­ac­ters be­cause they’re the least sen­si­ble. The hard bit of that was mak­ing sure that Jack Reynor’s per­for­mance was in­ter­nal enough that you could buy that he would go that crazy. Orig­i­nally, the in­sult Stevo lobs at him wasn’t enough. I’d had a few goes, then Ames [Amy Jump, Wheat­ley’s writ­ing and edit­ing part­ner, and wife] rewrote it and she came up with, ‘About last night, I’m re­ally sorry. ’Cause I came so hard in your cousin’s mouth that I think I knocked some of her rotten fuck­ing teeth out! You’re gonna have to pick ’em out of her fuck­ing stools at the hospi­tal!’ Every­one read it and went, ‘Fuck! That’s pretty bad!’” the Out­come: Up­per right chest; wound


painful. But the idea was that it’s quite hard to shoot things that are mov­ing at speed. Stevo fires and misses a few times be­fore hit­ting any­thing. It’s adren­a­line and fear and pres­sure. It’s very dif­fi­cult to do un­less you’re a trained com­mando.” the Out­come: left shoul­der; wound Stevo shoots Vern in the open­ing ex­change of fire, wheat­ley is at pains to en­sure his main char­ac­ters were all wounded in some way — usu­ally the legs or arms, as sharlto cop­ley’s gun­run­ner finds out. “You can’t have every­one shot in the head be­cause you’ll run out of cast. You can’t have them all shot in the guts be­cause it’s re­ally

SHOT #26

Chris shoots Martin the first manstop­per of the movie, and in­ad­ver­tent cold­play riff, sees cil­lian mur­phy’s repub­li­can take out martin (Babou ceesay), one of the guys who bro­kered the deal. martin’s not quite dead, although that’s not re­vealed un­til later. “For the plot, it was im­por­tant to take Martin out. And we wanted to make it much more se­ri­ous — no­body can get out of it now. There’s no go­ing back. That’s the end of their chances.

And Martin has a re­la­tion­ship with Jus­tine [Brie Lar­son], and Chris has a nascent re­la­tion­ship with her. So Chris shoots the boyfriend straight at the start, and it pans out badly for him…”


SHOT #51

Howie shoots Gor­don The sud­den ar­rival of two snipers on the scene, planned as part of a dou­ble-cross by Martin and Jus­tine, com­pli­cates mat­ters. Not least when Howie (Pa­trick Ber­gin) sends a bul­let into the leg of Gor­don (Noah Tay­lor). “Okay, this is prob­a­bly one of the first to­tally un­re­al­is­tic wounds in the film. That would be to­tally un­sur­viv­able — it would have shat­tered his leg and that would have been the end of him…”


SHOT #114

Harry shoots Jus­tine Chalk up an­other one for Jack Reynor’s agent of chaos, who ac­ci­den­tally shoots Jus­tine in the right leg, de­spite os­ten­si­bly be­ing on the same side. “It’s typ­i­cal of the use­less­ness of Harry. Jus­tine is fucked off that she was de­fend­ing his cousin ear­lier. But this gets quite an in­ter­est­ing re­ac­tion in the au­di­ence, usu­ally. ‘You’re not al­lowed to shoot women!’ But it’s not a fa­tal wound, and it’s an ac­ci­dent.”


SHOT #163

Vern shoots Bernie Farewell, then, to Enzo Ci­lenti, whose ner­vous Nel­lie tries to make a very slow break for it, walk­ing to free­dom un­til Vern shoots him in the back. The rot­ter. “Vern has been so sin­gu­larly use­less at hit­ting any­thing to this point. The irony is that he mur­ders the un­armed guy — the only char­ac­ter who doesn’t have a gun, or fire a gun. Bernie’s at­tempt to es­cape was based around a thing I did as a kid. I’d thrown some ap­ples un­der a car, the car screeched to a halt and I hid in the woods. Af­ter a while I thought, ‘If I just walk away re­ally slowly I’ll be fine.’ At which point I got caught.”


SHOT #167

Jus­tine shoots Howie A mystery, as Ber­gin’s wounded Howie is put out of his mis­ery just as he’s about to re­veal who hired him. Spoiler: it’s Jus­tine. “It’s a very sneaky shot — she slid around the cor­ner. The only lan­guage of the film that tells you she did it is a big close-up of her just be­fore. It’s about the big­gest close-up of the movie. Jus­tine is the only char­ac­ter in the film who shoots straight and she also kills the most peo­ple. It’s like a re­make of Alien, where she’s Ri­p­ley and the alien at the same time.”


SHOT #244

Harry shoots Ord An­other ac­ci­den­tal dis­charge from the hair­trig­ger of Harry, as he shoots Ar­mie Ham­mer’s su­per-cool, highly trained Ord (again, who’s on his side) in the leg. “There’s an­other ver­sion of this film, made in the ’70s maybe, where Ord is the star of it. It’s al­most like it should be his film, but the other char­ac­ters drag him down. And this is like a mo­ment from Die Hard, but as Bruce Wil­lis goes to fight Alan Rick­man, Rick­man blows his toes off. Also, we re­alised Ord hadn’t been shot in the leg and he was mo­bile. In the land of the blind, the two­legged man is king, so we had to dis­able him some­how.”


SHOT #331

Vern shoots Frank As the bul­lets fi­nally start to run out, the body count be­gins to rise. michael smi­ley’s like­able, lo­qua­cious Frank is taken out by Vern af­ter a des­per­ate scram­ble to reach the ware­house’s still-work­ing phone… “The idea for the film was a se­ries of re­ally small ad­ven­tures, but they mean masses to th­ese peo­ple be­cause their lives have been boiled down to hardly any­thing. Frank try­ing to reach the phone would be a tower block be­ing hit by a me­te­orite in a Michael Bay film. You think he’s got there and then he hasn’t. It’s re­ally un­fair. It’s just fuck­ing to­tally un­fair.” the OUT­COME: Heart; FA­TAL

SHOT #338

Chris shoots Vern Vern’s boat race is run when, to add in­sult to the mas­sive burns he re­ceived dur­ing his fight with Frank, Chris shoots him. Not just in the face, but through the nose. “I’d read that to def­i­nitely stop some­one with one bul­let, you go through the nose. It goes through the brain and cuts out the mid­dle of the brain, which runs the ner­vous sys­tem. It’s re­ally hor­ri­ble. It’s such an in­sult to shoot some­one right in the mid­dle of their face, but Chris is up­set about Frank.” the OUT­COME: Head; FA­TAL

SHOT #353

Stevo shoots Harry As the con­flict be­gan with stevo and Harry, so it comes to an end, with the duo killing each other in suit­ably Ott fash­ion: Harry crush­ing stevo’s head by driv­ing a van over his face, while stevo, with his last act, fires a bul­let into Harry’s arse. Yep… “I don’t know why be­ing shot in the but­tock is lethal. But it’s a high-cal­i­bre pistol so it could do a lot of dam­age. Stevo goes out as he went in, as an id­iot. He’s caused so much trou­ble with his mouth and he just gets smeared flat. Orig­i­nally, Stevo just got shot in the orig­i­nal script. But Jack said, ‘I’ll do it if I get to kill Stevo in a re­ally hor­ri­ble way.’ I said, ‘What if he gets his head run over?’ He said, ‘I’ll do it.’ I had to per­form the test of the rigged van. Hav­ing a real van rolling over you, that for some rea­son doesn’t pop your head, was re­ally scary.” the OUT­COME: but­tock; FA­TAL

SHOT #354

Jus­tine shoots Ord With every­one seem­ingly dead, and the ware­house in an even greater state of dis­re­pair, Ord and Chris forge a cau­tious truce and pre­pare to leave. Un­til Ord is rudely in­ter­rupted mid-john den­ver anec­dote. by a bul­let to his eye, cour­tesy of the lurk­ing Jus­tine... “No-one’s very happy about that, be­cause they re­ally like Ar­mie. He’s done noth­ing wrong in the whole film, he’s got no bad agenda, and then he gets shot in the eye. And he ain’t com­ing back with an eye­patch. There never was a John Den­ver story — that was some­thing we made up on the day. But if there had been one, it would have been quite filthy.” the OUT­COME: Head­shot; FA­TAL

SHOT #355

Jus­tine shoots Chris im­me­di­ately af­ter shoot­ing Ord, Jus­tine also plugs Chris in the chest, this time from a dis­tance with a sniper ri­fle. but de­spite this the ir­ish­man ac­tu­ally has a grudg­ing re­spect for her as she pre­pares to ab­scond with the big bag of cash… “There’s a mean ver­sion of this where Chris shoots her in the back as she leaves. That would be hor­ri­ble. But Chris is a bit of a ro­man­tic. It’s wrong time, wrong place. They could maybe have been al­right if they’d met in a bar. But they didn’t, and that’s how it ends. He might make it out alive — I don’t know what the per­cent­age sur­vival chances are if you get shot just un­der the heart. I sus­pect not good, but there’s a chance for a se­quel…” the OUT­COME: Chest; Al­most Cer­tainly FA­TAL


What we said:

“Wheat­ley con­tin­ues an un­bro­ken run of qual­ity, helped by a great cast and a star­tlingly ef­fec­tive premise. This is se­ri­ously cool, stuffed with great dia­logue and rid­dled with bul­lets.”

No­table ex­tras:

Com­men­tary from Wheat­ley, and a mak­ing of fea­turette.

Clock­wise from left: Aim, fire!: Gor­don (Noah Tay­lor), Harry (Jack Reynor), Ver­non (Sharlto Cop­ley) and Ord (Ar­mie Ham­mer); Frank (Michael Smi­ley) with Chris (Cil­lian Mur­phy); Jus­tine (Brie Lar­son).

Ben Wheat­ley on set with Enzo Ci­lenti (Bernie), Michael Smi­ley (Frank) and Sam Ri­ley (Stevo).

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