FILM Free Fire (15)

Yorkshire Post - Culture & The Guide - - REVIEWS - ON GEN­ERAL RE­LEASE ALIS­TAIR HARK­NESS

In an era of bloated fran­chise block­busters, writer-di­rec­tor Ben Wheat­ley’s new film Free Fire feels like a sly joke. Un­like his last film, the 1970s-set JG Bal­lard adap­ta­tion High Rise, this isn’t try­ing to say any­thing pro­found or in­ter­est­ing about so­ci­ety, pol­i­tics or the hu­man con­di­tion. It has al­most no so­cially re­deem­ing fea­tures at all, be­yond per­haps of­fer­ing a blackly comic por­trait of ni­hilism run amok.

Fea­tur­ing a sin­gle ware­house lo­ca­tion and a premise built around 12 char­ac­ters em­broiled in a gun bat­tle, it is, lit­er­ally, a wall-towall ac­tion movie, one in which a fire­fight oc­cu­pies roughly 70 min­utes of its brief 90-minute run­time. In this re­spect it feels like a genre ex­per­i­ment, an ex­er­cise in pure cin­ema de­signed to solve the prob­lem of how to tell a com­pelling story in al­most real time with this many hate­ful char­ac­ters all point­lessly try­ing to kill each other.

Set in Bos­ton in the late 1970s and built around an arms deal go­ing rapidly wrong, Free Fire cer­tainly isn’t in­ter­ested in pan­der­ing to its au­di­ence by of­fer­ing char­ac­ters to root for. Wheat­ley’s cast might in­clude the likes of Cil­lian Mur­phy, Ar­mie Ham­mer, Sharlto Co­p­ley, Sam Ri­ley and re­cent Os­car-win­ner Brie Lar­son, but he’s got them play­ing

IRA mem­bers, South African gun­run­ners, self-in­ter­ested in­ter­ims and var­i­ous cat­a­stroph­i­cally id­i­otic hench­men. No one re­ally has an arc; it’s not that type of movie. Nor are there flash­backs or big declam­a­tory speeches to sig­nal where our sym­pa­thies should lie.

Keep­ing his cam­era low,

Wheat­ley cre­ates a pow­der-keg-like en­vi­ron­ment, in­cre­men­tally mov­ing through the film’s con­tained space in a way that doesn’t just build up drama and ten­sion, but also lay­ers in

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