Plot: What’s it about?
Ben Wheatley is an interesting director. He came to my notice when he adapted a J.G. Ballard novel called High-Rise. For myself, I enjoyed the adaptation because it was true to the novel. That said, it was a hard film to recommend due to certain parts of the story being lost in translation. Essentially, to understand and enjoy the film you would need to read the novel first. That effort showed that Ben Wheatley had style in spades, so I was excited to check out his latest effort – which also takes place in the Seventies – Free Fire.
Free Fire begins in 1978 Boston. A group of men meet up with a group of gun-runners to purchase guns. When it is revealed that one of the gun buyers had wronged one of the gunsellers’ sisters the night before, the men fall into a firefight for the rest of the film.
Obviously, this film has a very small plot framework to work with. The plot takes about three sentences to summarize, so the film is all about the characters and character actors who portray them. Armie Hammer is great as gun salesman Ord, wearing a turtle neck and beard. Sharlto Copely is just as enjoyable as South African gunseller Vernon. Ciliian Murphy is excellent as the Irish gun buyer Chris. Brie Larson steals every scene she is in as the beleaguered by both sides Justine. Essentially, this is an actor’s movie and the casting is very strong.
Keep in mind that the movie is essentially like watching one gun fight for over an hour. Some people will be annoyed by this, whereas some people will find the comedy and action enjoyable. I personally veer towards the latter, occasionally laughing out loud at the over-the-top violence on display. I thought the direction by Ben Wheatley was very capable with loads of flair for style and smart camera angles. The movie reminded me of how Frankenheimer tried to make sure that the audience could tell where every gun shot hit in the film Ronin. Stylistically it owes a lot to that film.
At the end of the day, this film will not please everybody. I enjoyed it for what it was, but might recommend a rental prior to a purchase if anything mentioned above sounds like it might not be to your taste. Fans of High-Rise will find it another solid effort by Ben Wheatley.
Video: How’s it look?
Consistent with most every new to Blu-ray films, Free Fire shows up looking splendid as expected. The 2.40:1 AVC HD image spots a full on ’70’s look and feel, right down to the orange and browns that perpetuate the film. Detail is a slight bit off in some shots, namely a few of the close ups, but nothing to get in a tizzy about. If you’ve seen anything in the same genre set in the same time frame (think American Gangster or American Hustle), then you’ll have a good idea as to what expect here. It’s not perfect, but rather just short of it.
Audio: How’s it sound?
A bit more impressive is the immersive DTS HD Master Audio sound mix that manages to get the points (and gunfire) across from beginning to end. Vocals are pure, sharp and crisp with the front stage taking the brunt of the action. The surrounds, however, aren’t supporting players – rather they offer up a variety of ambient effects that really heighten the mood. LFE, not to be left out, has some standout moments too. It’s a good, solid and effective mix that’s sure to please.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Audio Commentary – Director Ben Wheatley, Cillian Murphy and Jack Reynor combine for a pretty intriguing commentary track. It’s clear that Wheatley knows how stuff, what he was wanting to do (read: accomplish) and Murphy and Reynor offer some supporting comments. Fans of the film will more than enjoy this track.
- The Making of Free Fire – The included featurette runs just a shade over 15 minutes and gives us what we’d expect – some behind the scenes footage complete with interviews with the actors. It’s not life-changing and I’d liked to have seen a bit more substance, but ’tis better to have than have not.
The Bottom Line
Free Fire is another interesting offering by Ben Wheatley. It is obvious that He is making the films he most wants to see and not worrying about pleasing everybody. I personally thought the film was pretty damn entertaining and really enjoyed seeing all those great character actors shooting guns at each other. My recommendation would be to go with a rental before you purchase, and if you are averse to violence this may not be for you.