Thoroughly inconsequential and better off because of that, Ben Wheatley’s wickedly entertaining Free Fire is a film of no redeeming social value, and completely awesome fun during all of its extra-tight 85 minute run time. This film is EXACTLY as advertised: 15 minutes of set-up, and 70 minutes of violent, trigger-happy action with loads of black comedy thrown skillfully into the mix. Feeling like a Quentin Tarantino film stripped of his occasional pretension and bloat, this scuzzy, morally bankrupt little flick operates in guns-blazing mode with a massive smile on its face, with a bevy of colorful characters spouting off vulgarity-laced one-liners at each other. The premise is simple: an arms sale has gone awry due to a rather ridiculous but compelling off-screen incident, the two parties open fire on each other inside of an abandoned and derelict warehouse, and nobody is truly safe at any point during the raucous narrative.
Wheatley co-scripted with his wife, Amy Jump, and it’s obvious that they are a terrific creative team. Armie Hammer and Sharlto Copley steal the show, Brie Larson has fun kicking some ass, and everyone else clearly had a ball with the down and dirty material. Laurie Rose’s excellent widescreen cinematography opts for inventive camera placement with a sense of heightened reality, with Jump and Wheatley’s razor-sharp editing never wasting a moment. While not as thought provoking as Wheatley’s A Field in England, as downright twisted as Kill List, or as subversive as last year’s descent into societal hell High-Rise, the boisterous and purposefully obnoxious Free Fire exists simply because its creators wanted it to exist, and sometimes, cleverly made throwaway items like this can be both enjoyable for the audience and important for the filmmakers as a way of pushing towards something more substantial or groundbreaking.