Free Fire Blu-ray Review
The idea of an action movie confined within a single location is refreshing, especially in the day and age of Michael Bay-sized, sprawling, non-coherent, CGI heavy action films. Ben Wheatley’s FREE FIRE is a good film with an original idea, a fun setting and a great cast that had me on the edge of my seat (while laughing) throughout.
The setting is an abandoned warehouse in Boston during the late 1970’s. Justine (Larson) is the contact to introduce Chris (Murphy) and Ord (Hammer), who is the broker of a gun deal between Chris and Vernon (Copley). The deal appears to be going smoothly until it’s revealed that one of Chris’s henchmen might have beaten up the female cousin of one of Vernon’s henchmen. Tensions quickly rise and over the next 90 minutes, shots will be fired, truths will be revealed and many insults will be hurled across the old warehouse.
In the beginning of FREE FIRE, things feel a little clunky as Justine and Chris appear to be waiting for someone. We have no idea why they’re there or what they’re talking about and right when I’m concerned for how the next two hours will play out, Armie Hammer appears onscreen as Ord and that’s when things pick up. In the film, Ord is the connection between the two eventual enemies, but Armie Hammer actually acts as the glue to the entire film, inserting himself when need be and keeping the film moving when hits a speed bump. I’ve mostly been dismissive of Hammer in everything he’s been in since THE SOCIAL NETWORK, but he stepped up his game in FREE FIRE and for one movie, he convinced me he might be able to be the A-list leading man everyone thought he was going to be after THE SOCIAL NETWORK.
The entire cast is spectacular and they’re relied upon to carry the scenes much more than they would be if this were a typical action film. They actually have to act, which is probably why we don’t see any traditional action stars in FREE FIRE. Armie Hammer won me over as the suave Ord, but Sharlto Copley stole the show as Vernon. Copley is a severely underused and underrated actor, but here he gets to shine, flexing his comedic muscle and impeccable timing as the over the top Vernon. Brie Larson does a good job as the strong and reserved Justine and Cillian Murphy rounds out the leads as the straight-laced soldier just trying to buy some guns.
Comedy is a big part of the success of FREE FIRE, but not in the way you might think. Sure, there are some funny moments, mostly from Copley’s Vernon, but the best moments come from the subtle humor. Things are mumbled or said in the background that are really funny and add to the film. Couple that with some great reactions from the talented cast and the audience can’t help but chuckle throughout, even when things turn a little dark.
FREE FIRE didn’t get the attention it deserved, but I’m hopeful it will find life on home video. It’s a fun, compact action-drama with a great cast that keeps the audience entertained throughout. And although it’s not really a mystery, it’s fun to try and guess who all will be left standing when the shootout is over.
Video: The Blu-ray looks nice. I was worried about black levels given the dark setting, but colors popped and the black levels were fine.
Audio: The audio was fine.
Commentary with Ben Wheatley, Cillian Murphy and Jack Reynor: These guys give a decent commentary track. I was thankful they did this together and it made for a faster paced, more interesting commentary. They cover what you would expect in terms of how the film was made and the challenges of a single setting.
The Making of Free Fire (16:00): This is a standard fluff piece trying to sell the film.