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Free Fire


Stars: Sharlto Copley, Armie Hammer, Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, Jack Reynor, Babou Ceesay, Enzo Cilenti, Sam Riley, Michael Smiley, Noah Taylor, Tom Davis, Mark Monero, Patrick Bergin.

Director: Ben Wheatley

The invaluable credit attributing Martin Scorsese (actually he’s just one of seven named executive producers) cannot have done any harm in ensuring that plentiful critical acclaim for Wheatley’s rancid wannabe Tarantino-style thriller ran rampant on the poster for Free Fire.

And, inevitably, that happened.

But does Free Fire really confirm Wheatley as a heralded British auteur? Not for my money, after seeing such movies as A Field in England and his pretentious version of J G Ballard’s High-Rise. (In fairness, though, his two stabs at TV’s Dr Who came off competently enough for the small-screen).

Wheatley and Amy Jump’s screenplay, set in 1970’s Massachusetts, finds Irish hoodlums and their ruffians and a gang led by a South African hood arriving in a dusty warehouse in 1970’s Massachusetts to but illegal guns from a gangsters.

The repetitive, derivative action and noisy gunplay that follows after the villains fall out and engage in a more and more tedious shootout rapidly becomes increasingly irritating since the narrative simply segues into a tsunami of bullets and bad language.

(Apropos of the more than plentiful four-letter words infesting the clichéd dialogue – I stopped counting after reaching one hundred – I suppose it’s only fair to note the lack of surprise in this, given that is a Film 4 co-production).

Scorsese is quoted as saying, “All my life, I never really felt comfortable anywhere in New York, except maybe in an apartment somewhere”.

Let’s hope, should he have been present during filming, that he found a comfortable apartment in Brighton where, somewhat improbably, Free Fire was filmed.

And why not, given most of the movie takes place inside a film studio? On that basis, it could have been made anywhere.

Wheatley deserves some credit for persuading Hollywood players like Brie Larson and Armie Hammer to come to England to make this film. To give the cast their due, they all work relatively hard to duck the bullets and deliver their clichéd lines as best they can.

But only Sharlito Copley emerges with a performance he can mention (ruefully?) in mixed company.

Credit, too, goes to slick editing (Jump and Wheatley – if only they had had a better script to work with) for trying hard but ultimately failing to hold me long before the overlong, underdone Tarantino-style homage – oops, that should read cheesy Tarantino-style fromage – ended.

It's definitely a B movie - so long as 'B' stands for bad, banal and boring.

Alan Frank

France/UK 2016. UK Distributor: StudioCanal. Colour.
90 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 3, Drugs 2, Swearing 3.

Review date: 16 Apr 2017