I’m not a Tarantino fan. While Reservoir Dogs (to name a move completely at random) was a great film, I did not like it. It’s not my genre. I tell you this for the sake of context – I’m not the correct person to watch or like a movie like Free Fire. So if at times during this review I come across as unduly critical or harsh, that’s probably only because Free Fire wasn’t a campy homoerotic sci-fi thriller/comedy (like if Magic Mike and Guardians of the Galaxy had a baby and it was also a musical)
With that disclaimer out of the way I can tell you seriously that I liked this film way more than I expected. Way more. And why? Because it was well written. I liked the pacing (mostly). I loved the dialogue. The characters were all different and absolutely convincing. They had their quirks and their goals and it was awesome watching all that mesh together under crazy circumstances. You could rank all the characters on a spectrum of General Competence, which is something I love to do in real life too. And not everything was spelled out, some stuff was inferred. I know it sounds strange, but it’s almost as though excellent writing can make a film good even without crazy special effects and pretty CGI. Ridiculous, I know.
The thing I appreciated most about Free Fire was the way the guns worked. That’s probably a good thing, there were a LOT of guns in this movie. It pains me when films have people who can, even while running and fighting, make perfect headshot after perfect headshot (*koff koff – John Wick). Guns don’t work that way. It’s hard to hit what you’re shooting at, even if you take your time to aim. And if one bullet hits you anywhere at all, it’s going to fuck you up. And you have to reload, which is not an instant thing. Without giving too much away, you get a sense of all that in Free Fire. Guns worked in a very believable way and that was very satisfying indeed.
Free Fire was well acted. I loved Armie Hammer, who was the sexy Russian in The Man From UNCLE. As always, Sharlto Copley was terrifying and borderline insane, it was wonderful to watch. Brie Larson was good as The Girl. Babou Ceesay was also great until he absolutely stole one scene (you’ll see) and then he was amazing. Actually there wasn’t a bad performance in the film; when that’s paired with good dialogue, it’s absolutely wonderful.
There were some things I didn’t like. One was the fact that there were several times when nothing happened in the film but shooting. Yes, I was on the edge of my seat the whole goddamn time but still, there were long moments where I was patiently waiting (like some of the characters) for the bullets to run out. Also there were no shirtless handsome men. Like, none. I don’t know how they could have fit that into the plot exactly but it’s like they didn’t even try. And I wasn’t too taken with the ending. Mostly that’s because I didn’t really know who to root for, so I just kinda picked someone and I didn’t quite like how it turned out for them.
So is Free Fire worth watching? That depends. I don’t need to see it again (though I certainly would see it again) . But if you like movies with guns in them, especially if you also like studies in characters, which this movie definitely was. And hoo boy was it ever violent and gory, which works much better when you adhere to the laws of physics. If you like Tarantino then you’ll love this.