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Free Fire SXSW Review: The Most Fun You'll Have at a Gunfight

By Ryan Scott — March 15th, 2017

What happens when you plop a bunch of very talented actors in a big room with nothing but a bunch of guns and the will to live? As it turns out, something that is incredibly fun and enormously entertaining. Such is the case with director Ben Wheatley's latest movie Free Fire.

A24's Free Fire is a very simple movie. Two groups of people meet at a warehouse in Boston circa 1978 in order to exchange a bunch of money for a bunch of guns. As is often the case with shady deals for illegal firearms, things don't go according to plan. That leads to a firefight the likes of which you've probably never seen before. This game of survival gets even more complicated as things progress, and not just because there are lots and lots of bullets flying all over the place.

Often times in movies where a lot of guns get fired in the direction of other people, it is flashy and intense. It seems like the case is often that there are just unrealistically brave people standing in the middle of a room hoping they don't get shot and feeling confident they will kill someone before they are killed. That is not what happens in Free Fire. This movie, though definitely a bit silly at times and not laboriously realistic, is probably a much more realistic representation of what might happen when a handful of people who aren't soldiers or members of elite special ops forces wind up in a compromising situation where they could die in a gunfight. People hide. They fire their guns inaccurately. They waste a lot of bullets. They get scared and bravery only comes out in moments of desperation as opposed to genuine heroism of flashy but impressive foolishness. That makes Free Fire super unique and really contributes to the massive entertainment value this movie has going for it.

It is pretty difficult to take something that all happens in a single location and stretch it out to 90-minutes and make sure that it doesn't get boring or feel overworked. Free Fire takes place almost entirely inside a large, pretty empty warehouse but it doesn't feel stale. There is a great blend of laughs, action and tension with just enough plot twists to keep the viewer interested. Ben Wheatley does a great job at balancing everything here and keeping the wheels turning constantly. He also owes a lot of credit to the person responsible for casting. If that happens to be himself, then he should go right on ahead and pat himself on the back.

Free Fire boasts a cast so good that it is a little weird to think they are all starring together in this particular movie. I mean that as a compliment. Recent Oscar-winner Brie Larson, probably future superhero Armie Hammer, the world's most under-appreciated character actor Sharlto Copley and the should-be-more-famous Cillian Murphy headline the cast and they all are pitch perfect in their respective roles. Everyone else is placed well and used well, but Jack Reynor deserves a special shoutout here. As a guy who unfortunately came onto everyone's radar as the super creepy older boyfriend in Transformers: Age of Extinction, he has really proved himself to be a great actor outside of that. He turned in a criminally underseen performance in Sing Street last year and he also delivers a solid resume piece in Free Fire. A movie like this would seem less appealing and probably not work nearly as well in the hands of lesser actors.

What Free Fire manages to deliver is a ton of fun and a super unique action movie, which is saying something in 2017. What can be said and probably should be said is that Free Fire isn't going to shock you with a bunch of hairpin twists and turns. There really isn't a lot of social commentary here and this is not what I would call a deep movie. This is a relatively simple movie with a simple premise that manages to be a ton of fun and nothing more. It doesn't need to be more. If you want and need more out of something, you won't find it here. That said if you like firefights and great actors clearly having fun on screen, Free Fire is probably right up your alley.

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