Film Festival Movie Review

Film Review: FREE FIRE: Shots and Giggles [TIFF 2016]

Brie Larson Cillian Murphy Michael Smiley Free Fire TIFF 2016

Free Fire Review

Free Fire (2016) Film Review from the 41st Annual Toronto International Film Festival, a movie directed by Ben Wheatley, starring Sam Riley, Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, Armie Hammer, Michael Smiley, Sharlto Copely, Enzo Cilenti, Babou Ceesay, Noah Taylor, and Jack Reynor.

Like Reservoir Dogs read “Shootout For Dummies”…in the best way.

Extremely funny with twists and turns that shocked and amused, Free Fire brought big laughs to an epic gunfight.

Set in Boston in 1978, a meeting in a deserted warehouse between two gangs turns into a shootout and a game of survival. Source: IMDb. In reality, this was a gun deal gone hilariously wrong. Nobody knew what they were doing. It was a shootout where nobody knew how to shoot! Pure comedy this.

Although almost entirely shot in a filthy warehouse, the film never felt claustrophobic. We were isolated, engulfed and completely invested in the futures of the characters. That is, if they survived this messed up melee. Only thing is, you wish there were subtitles because the ultra thick Irish, Boston, and British accents muddled the already muddy situation we watched grow into a beautiful, bloody chaos. Sam Riley‘s Boston accent was particularly intolerable, which was perfect for this mess. Miscommunications aplenty caused so much strife. All you could do was watch the negotiation train derail wheel by wheel by screwed up wheel.

The movie did not jump off until about thirty minutes in. Never fear, the introductions of our colorful characters were just as entertaining as the shootout. We met Chris, the Irish militant who Cillian Murphy played so straight everything he did turned comedic simply because everyone else was funny as hell.  We love Murphy as the controlled crime boss he is in Peaky Blinders, but Chris was no Tommy Shelby. Chris was in control of nothing.

Brie Larson played Justine like a vixen and a boss. Rather, Justine was more like a war nurse tending to a powder keg. Nevertheless, it was nice to see an active female in the midst of a dust up. She was not just a lucky charm or pawn. It was impressive how the script played with the dilemma of chauvinism and chivalry in a gunfight. You could not help but get worked up about Justine’s shifting importance in the fray.

Then, there was genteel yet narcissistic Ord played by Armie Hammer. For some, Hammer may still be in the dog house for Lone Ranger, but he kept his “cool” in this feature. Tall, handsome, witty, he was irresistible in his stuffy, retro get-up. Meanwhile, it was Sharlto Copely‘s Vernon that stole the show as the unintelligible, hilarious fool. Vernon was an experience I cannot describe. This movie if a must-see if only to witness Copely‘s foolery.

Every character was so interesting you got the feeling the camera – like you – did not know where to focus next.  Which gun was firing? Who was shooting at whom? Shifting perspectives – and loyalties – kept you on your toes. Yes, we were in a large square box for 90 minutes, but every nook and cranny of that box was another page turned in this story. That is, if a movie could be a “page-turner”, Free Fire is definitely that.

Clearly, screenwriters Wheatley and Amy Jump drew influence from Quentin Tarantino as much as the film’s producer, Martin Scorsese, when they dreamed up this bloody gathering. Scorsese puts a bullet in every body – check. Tarantino forces us to question our observation skills – check. Nothing is ever what it seems.

Free Fire was a mix of comedy, mystery, and violence that has not been seen in a while. You find yourself rooting for honorable and despicable characters alike. You find yourself laughing hysterically while someone is being riddled with bullets. Crazy, I know. Wheatley and Jump are clever that way. I dare you to try to tear yourself away from the action or the outcome. This film was a lot of fun to watch.

Rating: 8/10

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About the author


I am ...a lover of all things film ...a published poet with a law degree from Howard University School of Law ...a D.C. native, who frequents local and international film festivals ...a self-professed couch potato who can usually be caught watching anything produced by Joss and Jed Whedon. My favorite TV shows include the Buffy & Angel Series, Sons of Anarchy, Oz, Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, and The Shield. Still, I am open to everything on TV and Netflix, which is doing big things.

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