You know that scene in crime movies, where a back-alley deal turns sour, resulting in a shootout? Free Fire stretches that into an entire movie.
Set in 1978 Boston, the plot sees Cillian Murphy and Michael Smiley play IRA gang leaders buying guns from gang leaders played by Sharlto Copley and Armie Hammer. Brie Larson plays the intermediary. As the deal goes down, a grunt in one gang squabbles with a grunt the other gang, escalating into a full-fledged melee. Amid the flying bullets, the script weaves in some double-crosses. But honestly? The details escape me. Free Fire isn’t concerned with plot, but style.
And it’s got style to spare. The clothes, the hair, the set decoration—this movie does the impossible: it makes 1978 look cool. Do they give Academy Awards for that? They should.
But as much as I enjoyed the film’s look, the execution frustrated me. When the firefight breaks out, director Ben Wheatley offers no sense of geography. Folks shoot and scramble for cover but we have no sense of their placement in relation to one another. A few wide shots would have sufficed. Disorient characters, not the audience.
Still, it almost doesn’t matter. The dialog held my ear, and despite little plot or characterization, the cast—particularly Hammer—grabbed my attention through sheer charisma. Free Fire isn’t a good movie, but it’s as good an okay movie as you’ll find.