One of the smaller releases of 2017, Free Fire stars Cillian Murphy, Brie Larson, Armie Hammer and more as members of two groups, one is a group of arms dealers and the other, the buyers. The premise follows the simple idea of an arms deal gone south and the two sides engaging in an all out war of bullets. In addition to a short and sweet premise, Free Fire takes place in one setting and from the trailer showed the potential to be a combination of Reservoir Dogs with the high-octane pacing of a Guy Ritchie film. While at times we get glimpses into the absurdity that combination brings, unfortunately Free Fire comes up shy of truly breaking that ground and crafting its own unique identity. This movie never finds the right formula for the mix it was trying to go for and left me feeling like I just got off a roller coaster that on the outside looked like a non-stop thrill ride, but once I got on left me disappointed and skipped all the heart stopping adrenaline fueled drops.
The cast is what got me in the theater and kept me engaged for the brief moments I actually was. Everyone in this film came to play and was diverse enough in their own strengths that they all played off of each other brilliantly. From a loose cannon crack addict to a show boating kingpin, Free Fire never lacked in giving me characters that were interesting and off the wall. As an audience we knew little about these characters, but as the shoot out progresses we are given hints that allow us to draw connections to who these people are and their prior relationships to each other. Although initially jarring, as you’re thrust into what feels like the middle of a 70s gangster film, I found myself more invested in certain characters and began placing bets in my head as to who would make it out alive.
I had fun following and getting to know certain characters, but sadly it took me longer to grow attached than it should have. This movie suffers from poor pacing, and while there is always something going on there is also nothing going on. The characters are split into factions as they engage in the shoot out and each have their own endgame, but before the ball really gets rolling we watch them peek over rocks and shoot what at times sounded like pop guns at each other. By the time we finally got to the climax and the body count began to rise I wasn’t as engaged as the film probably wanted me to be due to a sluggish and repetitive second act.
Certain interactions and moments of dialogue in this film I thought worked tremendously. As stated before, we learn more about these characters as the movie progresses and that allows us to piece together certain relationship dynamics. While I found the middle portion of this movie slower than I believed it should have been, what kept me interested was the interaction, primarily with anyone and Armie Hammers’ character. Hammer plays the cocky and seasoned vet who never seemed too keen on making friends or dealing with idiocy and that set up a lot of comedic and enjoyable moments whenever he was on-screen. His character helped me get through a muddy second act as he tastefully treated the over the top personalities as children and his own partners as smartalecks in training.
In the end Free Fire aims to impress and evoke Tarantino like dialogue through a Guy Ritchie lens and ultimately falls short as it feels more like pure imitation than an homage. This in no way makes the movie an eye roller as there are moments of humor, wit and sequences that are sure to entertain but in no way will it leave a lasting impression that leaves you screaming for more. This movie is entertaining enough for its 90 minute runtime making for an, at times, entertaining experience. It had all the makings of a high-octane action comedy, but feels more like a nice bike ride on a spring afternoon; you’re kind of along for the ride never becoming fully immersed and at times you feel like you’re just riding around in circles.