As Good As It Gets
it is finally so absorbing because it plays like a lyrical road odyssey that’s also a detective story.
It's a good bad... and worth a popcorn matinée. While it's easy to lament what could have been...
Simple, isolated and impressive Wheatley's 'Free Fire' is a joy to watch. More clear cut than other works such as 'Kill List' this action romp is surprisingly funny and very accessible as a viewer. With distinct and extremely detailed characters the film is impressive and entirely worth your time
It is the 1970s, and a small group of Irish republicans is in the USA arranging to buy automatic rifles from a South African supplier via a broker of illicit arms deals. No-one trusts anyone. As if that wasn't enough of a problem, it turns out that one of the Irishmen has an unhelpful drug habit. This fellow also fell foul of one of the American crew the previous evening. Oh, and there are a couple of snipers in the warehouse where the deal is taking place....Director and co-writer Ben Wheatley is flavour of the month in some quarters, despite having directed only a handful of cinema movies. Well, I saw A Field In England and High Rise, and I thought both were pretentious rubbish.But I'll cut him a break, because Free Fire definitely has something going for it. It's a really simple concept - an arms deal goes wrong, gunfire erupts, and there is an extended jockeying for position in a closed-in location (a derelict warehouse), with gunfire, over the next hour or so. What makes this film something to register on the radar is the way that hour is managed, and the dialogue within it. The set-up has established every character, so we understand personalities and motivations before all Hell breaks loose. I won't say that we care, because these are not nice people, but we are invested enough to want to see what happens to each of them, and who (if anyone) manages to escape alive.There is a good cast, headed by Brie Larson, Armie Hammer, Cillian Murphy and Sharlto Copley, all of whom give us nuanced characters. Copley, as is his tendency, goes wildly over the top but, then, that's how his character is written.And, importantly, notwithstanding the tension and death and destruction, there is a strong strand of dark humour running through this. I'm not saying you'll laugh out loud but, if you're anything like me, the script will please you.
The Movie Diorama
If that sounds like your cup of tea then go ahead and give this a watch, you'll find it highly amusing. An arms deal goes terribly awry when a small fist fight turns into a factory shootout where nobody can be trusted. Think of this as a modernisation of 'Reservoir Dogs'. All set in one location, various personalities and plenty of violent profanity. Each character has their own accent and personable traits to differentiate themselves. A sarcastic American, an eccentric South African, a stupid Englishman and many more. I had to adjust my hearing for each character, I got there eventually. The chaos starts from one punch and, much like a ticking time bomb, escalates the tension and frantic mayhem. Approximately seventy minutes (excluding the introduction) of gunfire, verbal abuse and crawling along the floor. Literally. Bang Bang Bang "You shot my suit!" Bang Bang "Your breath stinks and you have a serious case of BO!" Bang Bang Bang. It kept me amused...for the first forty five minutes. The problem with using the same scenario and not changing it up for an entire film, is that it becomes tedious rapidly. There's no twists or turns, just two sides of a bad arms deal shooting each other. Couldn't keep my attention the whole way through. The amusement comes from the humorous screenplay and dialogue execution. Copley, Hammer, Murphy, Larson and everyone else manage to perform their lines in perfect comedic timing. You shan't be rolling on the floor laughing, yet it's enough to make you chuckle and smile. Heck I did, and I'm dead inside. Wheatley's directing style was clean, even amidst the chaos he was able to keep the camera and ensure we could see everything. The story, or lack of, is predictable however the writing style and acting is enough to withstand ninety minutes of carnage. Do not take this film seriously, it's just light hearted fun. I think I've seen enough guns for one day. Oh, and it seems most of these weapons have unlimited ammunition! Small nitpick...
There has been movies that had a very small space that have worked quite well. Phone Booth. Buried. This got about 70% there but was overcome with some poor choices. I read a bit about the production and watched the "making of" attachment on the DVD. That gave me some clues.Apparently much of the choice for it to take place in the '70s was due to cellular phones. Not much of a movie when you can call for help. But that choice also came with having some reference to it being the '70s. A few disco jokes? Someone served in Vietnam? Something like that. I think there was one passive reference to a guy's suit and that was it. And the John Denver 8-track, I suppose.Additionally the director apparently did quite a lot of research on shootouts and how they really go down. Then patterned the action to it. All well and good and seemed to reflect that because there was an absence of action and flash to it all. I'm glad it didn't flip to a Tarantino Xerox blood fest, but maybe more of early John Woo? Something more with a flair. Sure, there were slights-of-hand to the visuals, but hardly enough vs. the latitude that was there. And I thank it again for not going totally Tarantino with the dialogue and characters. There were some as they were all criminals, so a comparison was inevitable. A distinction to each and every one was present with solid acting talent behind them. Yes, it was likely that such criminals would have said the "F" word just as frequently as the characters, but was a pain to listen to in a movie and took away from further potential exposition. Not that I was offended. It was just verbal junk.I also found the logistics suspect. I was not really sold on there not being any way out for any of the characters. Even the two "suprise guests" suggested they entered from a direction that would then provide escape for the others. But they were never used or tried. It was a subject that was just dropped. And the endless supply of bullets was growing tedius. The lead-up to the shoot out was engaging and entertaining, though. But it had more to it on a whole that wasn't there. Room for another 10-15 minutes. So it shot itself in the foot in the end. (See what I did there, eh? Wink wink.)