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MOVIES: Free Fire - Review



Set in the late 1970s and taking place almost entirely within the confines of an abandoned factory, Ben Wheatley's Free Fire is a hilarious action comedy built around the most simplistic of premises: what happens when a bunch of smarmy, foul-mouthed criminals from various walks of life run afoul of each other in the midst of an illegal arms exchange? Gunfire, and lots of it.

Justine (Brie Larson) is brokering a deal between two members of the IRA (Cillian Murphy and Michael Smiley) and a snappily dressed South African named Vernon (Sharlto Copley) with a surplus of assault rifles to unload. Problems arise when the buyers discover that Vernon has failed to deliver the M16s they had specifically requested, and his aloof assertion that "an assault rifle is an assault rifle" doesn't exactly inspire confidence, but the smooth-talking and diplomatic Ord (Armie Hammer) manages to salvage the deal - until hired goons on each side of the transaction reignite a pre-existing grudge and all hell breaks loose.

Soon everyone is taking cover and trading shots, with bullets ripping through bellbottom pants and polyester suits, but very little of the damage proves to be serious: viewers can expect plenty of flesh wounds and other minor injuries, all of them played for laughs as this collection of lawbreakers and miscreants proves to be universally inept at wielding firearms. Equally amusing is the constant shifting of allegiances, as members of each team abandon any sense of loyalty in favor of good ol' self preservation, forming unlikely bonds that often have uproarious consequences.

Performances are universally solid, with Larson holding her own against the swaggering macho bullshit exhibited by everyone around her, and Hammer emerges as a particularly adept scene-stealer. Nearly every choice he makes throughout the film's brisk 90-minute runtime is comedy gold, and it's puzzling to ponder why someone with this much talent and charisma hasn't become an absolute mega-star, but perhaps this role will thrust him back into the spotlight where he belongs.

Free Fire's plot may be as thin as the paper it was written on, but Wheatley milks the concept for everything it's worth, crafting an exercise in mayhem that's consistently funny and undeniably absurd. With the jokes coming nearly as fast and frequently as the bullets, some are bound to whiz right by, but the ones that hit their mark do plenty of damage - which is more than can be said for our heroes and villains.


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