By Tony Inglis
Director: Ben Wheatley
Release: March 31
Ben Wheatley, with his co-conspirator in movie making Amy Jump, creates genre films that totally flip those genres on their heads. Kill List is a hard-boiled British gangster story twisted into a psychological horror; Sightseers is a romantic comedy with added serial killing; A Field in England is a hallucinogenic-tinged civil war epic; and High Rise completely defies description.
Free Fire continues this trend. What would be a linear, run-of-the-mill action picture in the hands of a more conventional director, becomes something far more interesting in Wheatley’s.
Free Fire is an absurdist deconstruction of the Hollywood shootout. There’s no extraneous plot, no gangs, no car chases, just some short set up and one glorious hour of gun play filled with zingy one liners, brief but shocking violence and some of the most jarring music usage in a film I’ve heard in recent times.
Wheatley has boasted about the Kubrickian attention to detail placed on the film’s structure and sound design. Actors were asked to count the number of bullets they shot to maintain a realism that has become divorced from the sort of planet-levelling action we see in many blockbuster movies. Gunshots were given pride of place in sound mixing to emphasise their loudness and Wheatley even mapped out the actors’ set positioning on Minecraft in advance of filming.
The performances of the ensemble cast are universally great, but praise should be reserved for Sharlto Copley’s larger than life, laugh out loud portrayal of the arrogantly delusional arms dealer Vernon, and Brie Larson’s assured but deft take as Justine.
The film doesn’t quite hit the heights of Wheatley’s previous work, but the intelligence and wit put into every aspect of this film makes it worthy of the appreciation it is receiving.