Movie Review: Free Fire

Here’s a thought that’s not groundbreaking. There are a lot of really serious issues in the world right now. Not getting into it, but you know it. A lot of that can carry over to the movies, with documentaries and think pieces. Those are necessary as well, but it doesn’t take away from one very important fact about Hollywood.

Sometimes you just want to have some fun at the movies.

Free Fire is a flat-out good time with action, comedy, and acting that brings a full 90 minutes of entertainment.

Here’s a synopsis, since this is another A24-distributed special that isn’t getting much publicity so far. Set in Boston in 1978, a meeting in a deserted warehouse between two gangs turns into a shootout and a game of survival. Thanks IMDb!

The thing that stands out most about the film is the excellent blend of genres. It could stand alone as a comedy or a shoot ’em up action movie, but the high-quality of both scene types coming together makes the entertainment. Kudos to writer and director Ben Wheatley here, who has now made his best movie to date.

Free Fire contains scenes that are strictly action, scenes that are strictly funny, and scenes that are a mix of both. Combine that with the fact the movie is only 90 minutes long and you get a fast-paced film packed with action. Hell, there’s only time for a few scenes outside the warehouse where all the shooting happens. It’s an easy observation, but it’s also a compliment that a movie so entertaining can happen in one location.

The comedy is quick-witted and requires paying attention. In other words, you won’t catch all the jokes because you’ll be busy laughing at the previous one. Not a bad problem to have. All the characters have their funny moments, but Stevo (Sam Riley) and Vernon (Sharlto Copley) shine the brightest comedically. Vernon, the leader of one gang, is full of one liners and backhanded comments to lighten up even the serious moments. Not to be outdone, Stevo is a henchman of the other gang playing the classic “screw-up” role in a fun way. Both are a staple on the comedy side.

Free Fire cast

free fire cillian murphy


Let’s talk a little more acting. Your top-billed cast is pretty strong in Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, and Armie Hammer. If Riley and Copley carry the comedy, Murphy and Hammer are the ones who advance the action. As an Irish hitman, Murphy finds a way to be cool, calm, and an assassin with a dry sense of humor as Chris. For my money, he’s the best in a strong cast of characters.

On the opposite side is Ord, played by Hammer. Ord and Chris are actually pretty much the same character, just fighting each other. I prefer Chris, but I’m biased to Murphy over Hammer (see: Peaky Blinders). Ord shouldn’t be overlooked however, as Chris wouldn’t exist without him and he’s involved with a good chunk of the Vernon comedy.

Brie Larson finds herself as the only woman cast in Free Fire, and she carries it in a way only she can. Her character Justine is a multiple love interest, a seductress, and a badass all at the same time. Larson is a great actress. That’s no secret. Nothing changes in this film.

I should also mention the “shootout” portions of this movie. Free Fire has no problems showing the firefights, and where the bullets land. There are a few gruesome scenes, but there is also some comedy surrounding who gets shot. It’s safe to say this is a shoot em up movie first and foremost. The movie is also rated “R”, so you could say this is expected.

If I haven’t made it obvious, let me make it clear. Free Fire is a flat-out good time. The writing is excellent, the acting is solid, and A24 stays hot as a distributor. Whether you’re having a night out with the boys or looking for a fun date night, find a way to go see it.

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About Steve Richards

First and foremost, I love anything Philly sports; that includes the Phillies, Sixers, Eagles, Flyers and Union (that’s a soccer team). I’m also a fan of the English Premier League squad Manchester City. In the college ranks, I follow the football, basketball, and baseball teams of both Penn State and the University of Texas. I work for, where I am the COO. I also cover a variety of high school sports for The Reporter and as a freelance writer. On the broadcast journalism side of things I'm a co-host of the Prime Time Fantasy Football and Showcast podcasts on Next Level Radio. You can check that out right here. You'll also find me on Twitter discussing a multitude of things. Feel free to give me a follow over there.
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