In FREE FIRE (2017), an arms deal in a derelict Boston factory goes south, pitting two rival groups in a gun battle to see who walks away with the money and their lives.
It’s the 1970s, and Justine (Brie Larson) and Ord (Armie Hammer) have put together an arms deal between IRA members Chris (Cillian Murphy) and Frank (Michael Smiley) on one side and South African arms dealer Vernon (Sharlto Copley) and former Black Panther Martin (Babou Ceesay) on the other. Both sides are supported by a few hired thugs. The deal proceeds smoothly despite friction between Chris and Vernon, who grate on each other. When one thug recognizes another and starts mauling him for a personal offense, people start shooting and it all spirals into a free fire zone.
There’s a large ensemble cast thrown at you quickly, but luckily we’ve got interesting characters who quickly stand out as individuals. We’ve got plenty of gun play blended with enough 70s kitsch, swagger, and macho witty banter to make even Tarantino happy. There are a few funny moments. The actors are all terrific. There’s a lot to like here. Unfortunately, it’s a short film that feels way too long. None of the characters stood out as interesting or strong enough for me to care whether any of them survived. This is a film where cavalier swagger during a gun battle works against tension, because the gun battle is most of the movie. Another problem is almost everybody is wounded in some way very quickly, so they spend most of their time crawling through dirt gasping.
Overall, FREE FIRE is a fun movie with plenty of potential suggested by its fun trailer, but in the end I found it somewhat monotonous as I just couldn’t get invested enough in any of the characters.