Ben Wheatley is a somewhat fresh faced director in the Hollywood scene. He was born in Billericay, Essex, England in 1972. He went to school at a place called Haverstock in North London and while he was there he met his wife and collaborator Amy Jump. He started off directing by helming an episode of a British show called Comedy: Shuffle. He then went onto other British shows like Modern Toss, The Wrong Door, and Ideal. 2009 was the year of his first feature-length film but it was the 2015 film High-Rise that put Wheatley on the map to notoriety. Fast forward to today and Ben has a new film entitled Free Fire that is definitely going to turn some heads.
It’s Boston in 1978 and a group of men are meeting up in an abandoned warehouse looking to buy some illegal guns. The group consists of a stoner named Stevo (Sam Riley), his idiotic friend Bernie (Enzo Cilenti), an uptight businessman named Frank (Michael Smiley), and his no-nonsense friend Chris (Cillian Murphy). The sellers are made up of an intermediary named Justine (Brie Larson), her pragmatic friend Ord (Armie Hammer), the man in charge named Vernon (Sharlto Copley), and his second-in-command named Martin (Babou Ceesay). While attempting to complete the transaction, a weird turn-of-events occurs, and the two groups end up in a firefight within the warehouse. Trading hilarious quips and actions, all of the characters attempt to kill each other through a serious of unconventional events.
While the setup and location aren’t very original, the execution is where the film truly shines. Each character and their motivations seem incredibly fleshed out. Even characters that barely get any screen time are fully developed within the film. Due to this, every single fight, shot, and kill carries a significant amount of weight that helps to both propel the action forward and make you actually care when a character either dies or gets hurt. Normally it’s a very tough job to stick the landing when so many actors are involved but somehow Wheatley pulls it off with great success.
In addition, the film is insanely funny. Almost every minute there is at least one joke or comedic action that I was laughing at. Some of it feels a bit improvised or added to the script at the last second, but nonetheless, it was funnier than most of the comedies that I’ve seen within the last year or so. The one actor that nearly steals the show is Sharlto Copley. He plays the scheming, womanizing big boss character so well that nearly everything that came out of his mouth had me smiling from ear-to-ear. Even so, the entire cast is absolutely brilliant and gives it their all the entire way through.
I’ve already given the film a lot of praise but unfortunately, the last act falls a little short. This is not to say that it’s bad but it lacks the energy and tension that I so greatly wanted. It still has tons of laughs however it fails in comparison to the amazing sections that come before it. Nevertheless, Free Fire is an absolutely great comedic romp that takes a simple premise and goes absolutely nuts with it.
About Free Fire
Synopsis: In the 1970’s a fire fight breaks out in a warehouse between two gangs that are looking to make a gun deal.
Director: Ben Wheatley
Writers: Amy Jump, Ben Wheatley
Stars: Cillian Murphy, Armie Hammer, Brie Larson, Sharlto Copley
Runtime: 1 Hour, 3o Minutes