You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myAJC.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myAJC.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myAJC.com.

‘Free Fire’ turns out to be little more than clever stunt


“Free Fire,” the latest cinematic gut-punch from Ben Wheatley (“High-Rise”), gets off to a retrotastic start, with a high-energy credits sequence composed of a fat ’70s-era font and a punchy track from the Boston punk band the Real Kids. Just when the words “Martin Scorsese” begin to form in the viewer’s mind, up pops his name as an executive producer.

Soon enough, though, Quentin Tarantino nudges the master aside as Wheatley’s chief influence in a film that turns out to be little more than a clever stunt, a one-room bullet ballet that plays like “The Hateful Eight” with “widah ahs.” A real-time exercise in witty dialogue, cartoonish violence and aim just bad enough to leave its protagonists bloodied but alive through most of its swift duration, “Free Fire” feels like a left-handed project from a filmmaker whose gifts for staging, framing and pacing are on full display but feel ultimately wasted in a glib, down-and-dirty bagatelle.

As the film opens, Chris and Frank, IRA gunrunners played by Cillian Murphy and Michael Smiley, respectively, are sitting in a car with a go-between named Justine (Brie Larson), waiting for Ord (Armie Hammer), a frontman for a South African arms dealer named Vern (Sharlto Copley). Decked out in a suave turtleneck and heaps of facial hair that make him look like an extra from “Anchorman,” Hammer’s Ord dazzles the group with blasé, erudite commentary as he takes them to an abandoned warehouse where the deal is supposed to go down.

As absurd as it seems to invoke Agatha Christie to describe a movie propelled by searing profanity, graphic savagery and general depravity, “Free Fire” owes much of its parlor-game suspense to her cozily murder-minded mysteries. Once the gunfire inevitably commences — joined at other points by punches, a tickling, a squishy decapitation and one or two incendiary events — the movie becomes a then-there-were-two countdown.

Co-written by Wheatley with his wife, Amy Jump, “Free Fire” is full of stinging verbal parries and thrusts (at one point someone asks Ord to distract another character with his “badinage”), but eventually the dialogue gives way simply to the sound of bullets flying with deranged desperation. It’s no surprise when one of the characters admits that he’s forgotten what side he’s on.

That could also be said of the viewers, who, as “Free Fire” becomes more monotonously depraved, may find themselves caring less and less about who lives and who dies. With his cultivated air of nonchalance, the trivialized, consequence-free violence and reverse-engineering of a plot threaded with convenient twists and unexpected arrivals, Wheatley seems intent upon lowering the stakes at every opportunity.

MOVIE REVIEW

“Free Fire”

Grade: C

Starring Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy and Sam Riley. Directed by Ben Wheatley.

Rated R for strong violence, pervasive profanity, sexual references and drug use. Check listings for theaters. 1 hour, 30 minutes.

Bottom line: A bit monotonous and the audience may care less and less about who dies



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Living

Bill Cosby plans town meetings on sexual assault following mistrial
Bill Cosby plans town meetings on sexual assault following mistrial

Bill Cosby is relieved and feeling great following a declaration of mistrial in his sexual assault trial, and wants to plan a series of town hall meetings to talk to young people about how to avoid winding up at the defendant’s table themselves. “People need to be educated. A brush against the shoulder – anything at this point &ndash...
Poet ponders life on the brink of death
Poet ponders life on the brink of death

That a writer with only months to live could carve out the time and energy to chronicle her experience of terminal cancer is an impressive feat. That a writer could accomplish this with such exuberant prose as Nina Riggs does in her debut memoir, “The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying,” is revelatory. The book, birthed after Riggs&rsquo...
’Downton Abbey’ the movie in the works, production to start next year
’Downton Abbey’ the movie in the works, production to start next year

“Downton Abbey” the movie is in the works, with production scheduled to begin next year. The popular, award-winning PBS television drama, which ended in 2015, focused on the lives of an aristocratic British family, the Granthams, and their family of servants. The historical TV series, starring Dame Maggie Smith and Elizabeth McGovern...
Doctor Strange, Iron Man, Hulk and Wong take break from filming in Atlanta to tweet photo
Doctor Strange, Iron Man, Hulk and Wong take break from filming in Atlanta to tweet photo

Talk about squad goals. Robert Downey Jr. amped up the excitement for “Avengers: Infinity War” on Wednesday when he tweeted a behind-the-scenes photo from the upcoming film — featuring a few of his superhero friends. Downey, Benedict Cumberbatch, Mark Ruffalo and Benedict Wong all posed together in costume...
WATCH: The trailer for “Marshall,” starring Chadwick Boseman, is out

Chadwick Boseman, who portrayed James Brown in “Get On Up” and Jackie Robinson in Atlanta-filmed “42,” steps into another historic role with “Marshall,” due out in October. Boseman, who filmed Marvel movies “Black Panther” and “Captain America: Civil War” in Atlanta, portrays U.S. Supreme...
More Stories