85-minute adrenaline rush5/3/2017
Entertaining film is action-packed with a thin plot
Set in Boston in 1978, the film opens outside a warehouse where a group of Irishmen are waiting to buy guns from South African arms dealers. The Irish are led by (and that’s putting it generously) Chris (Cillian Murphy) and Frank (Michael Smiley) with additional muscle (if the former was being generous, this is downright charity) coming from Frank’s junkie brother-in-law, Stevo (Sam Riley), and his pal Bernie (Enzo Cilenti).
On the other side of the deal is the “misdiagnosed child genius” Vernon (Sharlto Copley) and former Black Panther (“it didn’t work out”) Martin (Babou Ceesay), who’ve brought their own off-brand muscle still recovering from drinking the night before. After recognizing Stevo from the fight the previous night, and a half-hearted apology that ended with the bragging about violent sexual assault, a bullet rings out, signifying the real start to this fun, chaotic and mercifully short film.
Rounding out the cast are Ord (Armie Hammer) and Justine (Brie Larson), who are seemingly the ones who brokered the deal between these two groups. Ord, on the side of the South Africans, is the sharp-witted, never-one-without-an-anecdote type that has better aim with his one-liners than his weapon. Justine attempts to keep everyone cool as the deal completely unravels from bringing the wrong guns (AR-17 when they asked for M-16s), skimping on ammo, and a pair of snipers no one seems to have hired.
So, we have a briefcase full of cash and a van full of guns. All they have to do is swap one for the other. What could go wrong?
After this, maybe 10-minute set-up, it’s go time. The rest of this 85-minute adrenaline rush is a barrage of bullets with an accuracy rate that’d make a Stormtrooper seem like a sharpshooter. And it’s all enormously entertaining.
Armed with whatever they can find (guns, sure — but don’t forget crowbars, lighter fluid and rocks), these international dealers look more like teens running around a paintball range. And, to a degree, that’s the whole film. The movie hangs on the humor of the situation: the one liners, the insanely inappropriate comments, the wonderful character interactions. Frank and Ord are particularly enjoyable as jabs about age and beard oil are fired as casually as their bullets. Vern is also great as he attempts to flirt with Justine only to get jealous when Chris seems to be better at engaging her attention.
As the film goes on, it occasionally becomes difficult to remember who is on whose side. All these characters are in it for the money, with every character trying to figure out how to reach the briefcase in the center of the room without getting shot. However, in this film you’re more likely to be hit with a ricochet bullet than a direct fire. That means it doesn’t matter whose “side” you’re on, as you’re likely to catch a bullet in the leg.
The plot of “Free Fire” might be thin, but the movie compensates by being funny, delivering well-shot action and moving along at a quick pace so you want to know what’s going to happen next. ♦