FREE FIRE Review: 1 out of 10 (Nothing is Free...including Stupid)
RESERVOIR DOGS and PULP FICTION are two films that pushed director Quentin Tarantino and the gritty crime film into the pop culture spotlight. They also spawned a ton of also-ran movies through the 90s and beyond. Copycat films with lots of gunplay, tons of F-bombs, and (hopefully) some interesting characters. Titles like GO, SUICIDE KINGS, WAY OF THE GUN, 8 HEADS IN A DUFFEL BAG were just a few of these films trying to be this sort of pulpy, bloody hard-R films full of vice and vinegar. Some of them even succeeded to greater or lesser degrees. Now here comes FREE FIRE about 20 years too late. Sure it has lots of bullets and blood and coarse language, but in the end, it is full of more piss than vinegar.
FREE FIRE is directed by Ben Wheatley and taken from a screenplay by Wheatley and his wife Amy Jump. It also stands as evidence that husband/wife writing teams don't always work. (See: Melissa McCarthy and Ben Falcone) This dreadful action wanna-be movie stars(?) Brie Larson, Sharlto Copley, Armie Hammer, Cillian Murphy and Jack Reynor. However, all you can expect from any of these actors for 80% of the film is to see them scurrying around on their hands and knees in the lower third of the screen. The rest of the camera eye is filled with a grungy old warehouse filled with plenty of convenient places for cover from gunfire. The plot is painfully simple: a gun sale gone bad between two gangs. How it goes bad is one of the worst points of the plot--a scenario so painfully stupid that you wonder if these criminals came out of a small car in the center ring of Ringling Bros. Once the shooting starts between the two gangs, the plot actually goes *downhill.*
A couple of things become apparent at this point. First, none of these criminals have spent any time at a gun range. Unable to hit anything at all, all these characters just crawl around in the dirt (what factories or warehouses have dirt floors?) and point their guns in random directions firing bullets that hit nothing but do offer the audience the delight of hearing non-stop bullet ricochets for over an hour. Midway through the film, I was wishing all of them had better aim to put themselves (and me) out of misery. Speaking of bullets, every member of each gang apparently walked in with pockets full of bullets. Like--every pocket full. Also, maybe additional fanny packs of bullets. There is absolutely no shortage of bullets, despite all of them being stranded around the warehouse behind concrete pilings ducking for cover on their backs. They all seem to be able to reload and keep firing at nothing. That is until it is *time* to fire at something...namely the point in the plot where it is time to kill someone. Then these characters seem to have perfect and precise aim. The stupidity of this scenario might be played off as funny in a short film lasting 10 minutes, but after an hour or more it becomes painful to watch.
This is a period piece that takes place in 1978. It seems the only reason for this is so the stars could grow hipster beards and wear polyester. That, and we get John Denver tunes from an 8-track player in a Good Times Van. Hilarious. Worse yet, none of these leisure suit-wearing characters are interesting at all. Barely two-dimensional, it is easy to forget who is even on which side. More than one character seems to forget this as well, so it isn't just the audience's fault. When a "plot twist" of even more gun toting characters get added, there is no explanation offered...they are just more fodder for the meat grinder, but can't seem to step in front of a random bullet fast enough. It is clear to see who will live and die though...the movie is careful to follow its own star power for that. Why do they live or die? It matters little--and even the movie doesn't seem to care either. The dialogue is forgettable, the characters are woefully developed, and even the action crawls along like so many of the characters in the movie.
FREE FIRE is an indulgent movie that feels endless and empty. With a run time less than 90 minutes, it feels like twice that. It is a shame that such a great ensemble cast was brought together for this sad excuse of action masturbation. Stay out of range of FREE FIRE.