Greased Gun Lightning
Strutting straight into the room, or in this case a disused warehouse, like the love child of Zoolander and John Wick’s 1970s free lovin’, even freer shootin’ moustached and side burned dad, we have incredible polyester sights and bullet sounds of Ben Wheatley’s latest cinematic dark comedy gem ‘Free Fire’ (2016). Just think John Denver concert gone bad, really, really bad. A sonic carnage where there was blood, massive blouse collars and beard oil everywhere.
The premise is incredibly and deceptively simple. It’s a gun deal gone sour, well more insane and fizzy that sour, but that’s effectively it. It has to be though because anything else would be gilding the gun barrel. Like a butterfly flapping it’s wings causing a nuclear explosion on the other side of the world, a single moment leads to such chaos that to not corral it would lead to a meltdown, instead confining the reactions within the factory walls (it even has a the vibe of a single setting stage play) harnesses the energy, bullets bouncing like isotopes fuelling the reactor and hilarious chaotic energy just explodes off the screen.
It’s 1978 Boston, a gun deal has been arranged between two parties by the evident business charms and delights of Justine (Brie Larson), a modern woman, but it’s still A Man’s (bigoted) World. The parties are headed by Chris (Cillian Murphy) and Frank (Michael Smiley) leading up the Irish buyers contingent, while Vern (Sharlto Copley) and Ord (Armie Hammer) lead the multinational sellers team, and of course both groups have some hapless fools to help carry the mayhem along.
Despite the fact that they are all dealing with weapons, there is a palpable juvenility amongst them all, boys and their toys, their insecurities, their bravado, their stupidity. This meaty soup of farce is beautifully and skilfully honed by the many talents of Amy Jump who wrote the sniper sharp script. Lines ricochet around, shot from fully formed diverse characters that are completely owned by their respective actor, this is clearly a cast having a truly fantastic time at work, and I REALLY hope that there’s another movie or series about Vern’s previous dippy debonair escapades.
This is supported on all fronts by a crew that are on par with all the words, direction and performances, EVERYTHING is outstanding. The cinematography (Laurie Rose) beautifully brings backs the colouring and lighting of classic movies from the 70s, the editing (Jump/Wheatley) is gunslinger bullseye and a gorgeous, evocative and seriously cool soundtrack from Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury enhances it all, and let’s not forget the sound department who have turned a cacophony of gunshots into a symphony.
The movie is ridiculously funny, one of the most quotable films in years, enhanced by seriously talented people doing a brilliant job, and enjoying it while doing it. There’s a comment by Ben on the extras where he mentions an inspiration for the film was the lack of genuine peril in modern big movies, you really can only go so big. It wasn’t the case in the 70s, maybe because they didn’t have the CGI to add digital bland to everything, so characters were properly thought and worked out, you invested in their moment, you felt it.
Another thing I thought when experiencing the movie was the beautiful chaotic freedom of not having a clue where the hell it was going. And that’s why the stunning team that is Ben Wheatley and his partner Amy Jump, along with regular crew members are one of the most exciting creatives around today, I have no idea where they are going (they probably don’t either), but as with each completely different movie they release may seem random and diverse, their overwhelming contribution to and love for cinema is at the core of it all. The aptly placed John Denver song ‘Annie’s Song’ in the movie could very well be their theme song or mantra, ‘You fill up senses’.
10/10 ‘Free Fire’ is out on Blu-ray and available to stream now.