Free Fire

Film, Action and adventure
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Free Fire

Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy and a dazzling cast assemble for Ben Wheatley's blistering, bullets-flying action movie set in 1970s Boston

A prodigiously talented cast is drowned out by a cacophony of gunshots in ‘High-Rise’ director Ben Wheatley’s entertainingly absurd riff on a ‘Reservoir Dogs’-style crooks ’n’ quips caper. It's the kind of guns-blazing free-for-all that might be described as a 'bullet ballet'. But this is more like bullet fringe theatre: a bold, stagey, intentionally repetitive and borderline experimental attempt to strip the crime flick down to its absolute bare essentials: criminals, cursing, double-crosses and lots and lots (and lots and lots) of shooting.    

Set in Boston in 1978 (but shot, weirdly, in Brighton), the opening half-hour is a riot of cool tunes, hot threads, big hair and vintage motors, as IRA operative Chris (Cillian Murphy) cruises along to an arms deal hosted by brokers Justine (Brie Larson) and Ord (Armie Hammer). The seller is Vernon (Sharlto Copley), a touchy South African with a van full of Beretta machine guns. As the parties convene at a remote dockland warehouse, it turns out that they’ve each brought along at least three friends – the cast expands to include Michael Smiley, Sam Riley, Noah Taylor and Jack Reynor (channelling Seth Rogen as a bearded stoner). But when it turns out two of these jokers have an existing beef, everything goes to hell very quickly. And stays there.  

The last hour of ‘Free Fire’ is one long, noisy and increasingly bonkers shootout, as treachery is uncovered and allegiances shift, and the characters get picked off one by one. Wheatley stays close to his actors, hurling us neck-deep into the mayhem until it becomes hard to know exactly what’s going on – who’s alive, who’s dead and who’s bleeding noisily on the concrete.

It doesn’t entirely hold together; the relentless din and repetition flips from thrilling to exhausting and back again more than once. But in those moments when everything clicks – when Copley’s nasal bitching ricochets off Smiley’s grizzled obscenities and slams into Larson’s perfect poise – this is absolutely joyous.

By: Tom Huddleston


Release details

Rated: 15
Release date: Friday March 31 2017
Duration: 91 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Ben Wheatley
Screenwriter: Ben Wheatley, Amy Jump
Cast: Brie Larson
Sharlto Copley
Armie Hammer
Cillian Murphy

Average User Rating

3.5 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:1
  • 4 star:3
  • 3 star:1
  • 2 star:0
  • 1 star:1
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A corker of a film, a great concept and they successfully manage to stretch it out for the full 90 minutes. It's not perfect but  Sharlto Copley is the standout character for me. Just brilliant, he has the best lines (which is just a function of the writing) but as an actor he delivers them beautifully. The violence is very realistically portrayed, the gun shots hurt and the characters so an excellent job of portraying that, there are a couple of occasions when they overdo the gore, but all in all a wonderful romp


This is definitely a film for action lovers. From start to finish this film is all about the guns and shout outs. I enjoyed the humour and Tarantino esque vibe, but overall the level of action and death was overplayed. If they'd cut the shout out scenes by about 30mins, then I would've given this film 4 stars!


I ruddy loved this movie. In fact I keep smiling when remembering it and thinking about the standout moments. What is essentially a 90 minute shoot-out movie ends up being, without trying to sound too snobbish, so much more. It's brilliantly written, full of twists and turns, and incredibly well staged and sequenced. It helps that the film has a fantastic cast who bring their A-game and really get on board. Nihilism has never been this fun!


I am a massive Ben Wheatley fan and jumped at the chance to see Free Fire again (After attending a viewing at LFF) on the tour throughout the UK. This stellar cast perform this strange action/comedy to perfection. I wish Brie Larson's character was fleshed out a little bit more, rather than just reacting to the men in the group, but it is a slight nit pick in a fairly solid movie. The action sequences are beautifully choreographed. I love movies that take place in enclosed spaces and watching how the actors react to moments that don't include them. Free Fire has many of these great shots with Cillian Murphy shining. This movie is a riot and is a great viewing experience in theatres.

Sadly I have to say that massively talented Ben Wheatley and his equally brilliant collaborator and partner Amy Jump seem to be going totally down the proverbial pan.

After such a promising early succession of great movies, “Down Terrace”, “Kill List”, “Sightseers” and “Field in England”, he well and truly hit the bumpers with “High Rise” which utterly mangles Ballard’s fine novel and wastes a fine array of actors with confused and pointless drivel.

But worse was to come with this silly and trivial film which, again, starts with a nice idea and then chucks it away with utter nonsense.

After establishing the late ‘70s period with hair styles and clothing, it goes downhill very quickly.

To emulate a Tarantino “Reservoir Dogs” scenario (Villains in a closed area after a gone-wrong situation and a possible grass) you have to have some sort of shape, form, plot and sense of character and drama all of which are totally lacking.

After the initial obscene dialogue from the low-life arms sellers and IRA thugs most of the action is a ridiculous and interminable shoot-out and ear-splitting gunshots and ricochets. Despite implausible injuries none of the characters actually dies. That is unfortunate because it might have spared us earlier what seemed like ages of pointlessness.

If you like intelligent, well thought out drama stay well away from this load of rubbish. 


Ben Wheatley is, once again, on fine form with Free Fire. It is a glorious, unapologetically loud, audacious bit of film making.

Combining a simple concept, insanely detailed choreography and spacial planning, and a brilliant cast, the film is darkly funny and tense, and I was on the edge of my seat throughout. Well, apart from when I was wincing at some of the injuries.

Free Fire isn't some dumb action movie: it has a lot of cleverness about it. The characters are what Wheatley has described in interviews as 'anti-backstory'. They become stuck in the warehouse location of the film, and all we see of who they are is what they are willing to do to survive. They are all flawed and all funny, and all strangely loveable.

The music, such as it is, authentic to the 1970s setting, and not in cheesy pastiche: the sound track, and the sound design generally, is amazing. The visual design work is, similarly, authentic without overdoing 70s stereotypes.

You really should go and see Free Fire: it's a great film. It is alternately dark and funny, very violent and clever, and it is definitely worth 90 minutes of your time.