Review: Self-indulgent ‘Free Fire’ riddled with holes

Ben Wheatley’s unlikable film about a bunch of unlikable characters shooting guns at each other

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

Bang bang. Bang bang bang bang. Bangbangbangbangbangbangbangbangbang. BANGBANGBANGBANGBANGBANGBANGBANGBANGBANG!

That’s “Free Fire,” and reading that sentence with varying levels of inflection gives the same sensation as seeing this loathsome, dreadfully repetitive caper-gone-awry tale.

A group of greasy, unlikable lowlifes converge in an abandoned warehouse for an arms deal. Among them are Ord (Armie Hammer), Vernon (Sharlto Copley), Chris (Cillian Murphy) and Justine (Brie Larson), and since it’s the ’70s, they’re all wearing some variation of a tacky leisure suit.

One side says something to insult the other side and it’s out with the guns, and everybody shoots at each other for the duration of the film. Whatever squabbles they have could easily be ironed out among one another, but “Free Fire” is one of those movies that keeps digging its own hole further because it has a running time to sustain. Logic and reason, like everything else, are shot full of bullet holes.

Is any of it fun? Not really. The dialogue and characters are dull, and become secondary to the echoing sounds of gunfire.

Co-writer and director Ben Wheatley, who made last year’s similarly unwatchable “High Rise,” clearly thinks this is all a gas. In his mind he’s made a tightly controlled, high-style genre exercise, but in reality he’s made an exhausting, masturbatory, self-indulgent Tarantino facsimile.

It can’t even be bothered to pull off any twists or surprises; in Wheatley’s world, the anti-twist is the twist. Yawn. For all its supposed firepower, “Free Fire” is shooting blanks.

(313) 222-2284


‘Free Fire’


Rated R: for strong violence, pervasive language, sexual references and drug use

Running time: 90 minutes