(Photo courtesy of A24 Films via

(Photo courtesy of A24 Films via


I don't know about you, but I get a kick out of bad gunshot wound acting in all ages of films.  It’s either hilariously drawn out with overacting or it’s unrealistically rapid in fatality.  The brutal facts of getting shot enough to cause death rarely check out in the movies.  That never stops filmmakers from trying new and creative ways to shoot people with varying degrees of entertainment success.  “Free Fire” is one such film daring to blast anything and everything with ammunition encased with twisted zeal.

Unpredictable from beginning to end, “Free Fire” is about an illegal arms deal gone bad in 1978.  A quartet of IRA blokes from Northern Ireland have crossed the pond to Boston looking to buy assault rifles for an edge in their strife in the streets.  The bossman Frank (Michael Smiley) is flanked by his steely ace Chris (a perfect Cillian Murphy) and two loser underlings in Stevo (Sam Riley) and Bernie (Enzo Cilenti).  The fetchy go-between Justine (Oscar winner Brie Larson) introduces the lads to Ord (Armie Hammer, with cool cat charm), the verbose heavy-hitter for his beyond-eccentric trafficker Vernon (the headlining Sharlto Copley), who escorts everyone into a derelict warehouse.  

Vernon’s John Denver-blaring van arrives with money man Martin (Babou Cessay), his own pair of henchmen Harry and Gordon (Jack Reynor and Noah Taylor), and the wrong make of guns.  The lucrative sale teeters on the edge of going south from perceived disrespect.  Cooler heads prevail for about five minutes before hot-blooded fisticuffs between Stevo and Harry erupt stemming from a coincidental prior beef.  Soon enough, pistols get drawn and somebody takes the imbecilic first shot of many that will follow.

Gun squibs had to comprise an obese portion of the “Free Fire” budget after the shit hits the fan.  Utilizing a single 360-degree location with practical lighting and dynamic cinematography from Laurie Rose to swing around the muzzle flashes and dingy blood stains, the cinematic greatest hits list of “shoot ‘em up” movies just added a new entry.  Plenty of those beloved films have memorable gunfight sequences nestled into larger narratives that last mere minutes.  “Free Fire” is a 90-minute one drawing out a hail of gunfire that would normally happen in a flash into a deconstructed Mexican standoff that tailspins further and further out of control.

Acidic with its dark humor and dialogue and stylishly appointed even when dirty and bloody, “Free Fire” is a maniacal fracas from the devious minds of director Ben Wheatley and his writing, editing, and spousal partner Amy Jump.  Their film relishes every opportunity to subvert expectations one would have from its ensemble cast.  Though marked for delicious death, all the performers are unleashed to do their flippant best and worst until their ends, with Hammer, Copley, Reynor, Larson, and Riley as the riotous standouts.

The condemning difficulty becomes sustaining the frenetic pace and punch.  “Free Fire” hits an absolute wall once the magazines, clips, and cylinders have been emptied a few times into a few too many characters.  Comical as the shared predicament of carnage may be, it is more than a little tedious to spend more than a third of the film with a dozen wounded people crawling on the floor who can no longer walk or run in any fashion to move themselves, and the film, along.  Shot nearly in real-time, most casualties will not bleed to death before the credits, but the promising initiative “Free Free” started with is drained instead.

LESSON #1: NOT ALL GUNSHOT WOUNDS ARE INSTANTLY FATAL-- Don’t let the aforementioned silly movie scenes fool you.  Dive into a few web analyses and queries with experts answering and most gunshot wounds take hours to kill you from tissue damage or blood loss.  “Free Fire” keenly hitches to medical reality with characters that take a licking of hot lead and keep on ticking to find creative means of cover and improvised first aid treatments.

LESSON #2: SHUT UP AND KEEP YOUR SHIT TOGETHER-- Every second of what goes wrong for these gangsters in “Free Fire” could have been corrected with bitten tongues and stronger nerves.  Instead, the dominoes of itchy trigger fingers and puff-chested pride ruin everything and cost lives on both sides.  Weather the insults and go home in one piece.  Be professional and be received as a professional.  Right, Mr. Pink?