Free Fire successfully fills its ninety-minute run-time with a consistently entertaining shootout.

In the late 1970s, two gangs meet at an abandoned warehouse to conduct the purchase of a large order of firearms. A fight breaks out between members from each gang, resulting in a shootout. Members of the two gangs desperately try to survive the endless gunfire, even confusing team loyalties in the mayhem.

The movie is entirely just the shootout, or the action leading up to the shootout. This is not a movie with story or character, just action. Free Fire still makes the best with what it is. It’s really impressive to see that the shootout remains interesting the entire time. It feels unique in this way, as there are few, if any, movies that stay in one location the entire time without a progressing story.

Considering Free Fire is entirely about violence, it is strange that there is little gore. This follows the trend set by PG-13 action movies, but does not necessarily fit considering this is rated R. This contributes to making the message of Free Fire a little inconsistent. Free Fire could be avoiding showing blood to not detract from the humor, highlighting how idiotic all these characters are. Alternatively, showing blood might just detract from the experience of the violence. I think it is the former, because in no way does the movie present a pleasant situation. If it were the latter, Free Fire likely would have included cartoonish blood just to heighten the experience.

Free Fire essentially takes place in real time. Despite director Ben Wheatley’s feat in making this story interesting, Free Fire does drag a little. Once the shootout starts there is no real story arc. There is nothing to propel the story forward besides death and characters coming up with various ideas to move around. However, it never stays tedious for too long; eventually there is always some catalyst that picks up the pace.

One of these would be humor. Free Fire would not work if it were not funny, and thankfully it is. Despite the life-threatening nature of the situation, the characters recognize its absurdity. In addition, the characters also add to the humor. Some are simply colorful people (both literally and figuratively), others are sarcastic, and some just point out how silly everything is. Even when the body count rises and it could start to take itself too seriously, Free Fire manages to stay humorous the entire time.

The entire cast also successfully carries the film. Despite the lack of character development, each character is distinct. Of the main cast not a single character blends into another. Some characters such as Sharlto Copley’s Vernon and Sam Riley’s Stevo are much bigger than others, but they still feel real. Brie Larson, Armie Hammer, and Cillian Murphy have more grounded characters but they still feel completely different from one another, and are just as funny as the more outlandish characters. Also this movie must have been incredibly physically taxing to shoot, as the characters wriggle around on the floor for most of the movie. Larson, as always, has an incredible performance, but it is disappointing to see her talents wasted for the second time this year.

Free Fire has been compared to Quentin Tarantino’s movies. Free Fire does especially feel similar to the third act of The Hateful Eight, but considering the later is upwards of three hours, Free Fire still feels different enough. However, whereas Tarantino masterfully builds tension in the space, Free Fire is not tense enough before the shootout starts. If it completely lacked tension it would be an interesting choice, but there is just enough to feel weak.

Free Fire is definitely not a movie for all audiences, but it is a strong addition to its genre. Free Fire’s form itself feels inherently problematic, but still manages to be entertaining. It is mostly worthwhile to see this incredible cast put on silly, yet skillful, performances.

Grade: B

‘Free Fire’ opened in theaters April 21, 2017

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