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Review: “Free Fire”

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A little chaos never hurt anybody. Well that’s not true at all is it, especially for the characters in “Free Fire”, a shoot em’ up action-comedy film that takes viewers to Boston where a gun trade gone wrong turns an epic battle of wits and stamina as things go complete out of control. Filled with all the action you would expect from such a premise, “Free Fire” proves to be a fun-filled ride, even if it loses a bit of its charm as it progresses.

Starring an all-star cast that includes Brie Larson, Sharlto Copley, Armie Hammer, Cillian Murphy, and Jack Reynor’ “Free Fire” finds two groups at odds over the sale of guns. One is composed of IRA members and the other is a group that includes an arms dealer and his cronies. When tensions mount over a series of issues, including the dealer bringing the wrong weapons for sale and one of the dealers men coming into conflict with one of the IRA members over an unrelated incident, the tension boils over until the two groups engage in an all out gun battle for their lives, the money, and the guns.

One thing that impressed me about “Free Fire” was that for a film loaded with star power, each of the movie’s core characters manage to stand out quite nicely on their own. The beginning of the story is loaded with hilarious quips, insults, and colorful dialogue that immediately draw us in to who these characters are and the already existent tension as the trade begins to take place. What’s impressive is we see pretty quickly that each character has their own personality and we get to know all of them all quite well in a very short amount of time. The conversations fill us in on the action and what preceded it without acting as obvious exposition. On top of all that no star really outshines the other, well at least when it comes to the big guns on the payroll no pun intended, and when the action finally starts to heat up the movie takes a more grounded approach to the shoot em’ up premise.

We don’t see the overplayed blood splatter we might be accustomed to and the injuries seems very realistic and tasteful as each character gets hit with stray bullets and focused shots against them in the ensuing fight. Add in a few hired guns meant to spoil the party as uninvited guests and you get a bit of organized chaos and comedy that leaves the viewer interested and engaged wondering what is going to happen next. Who will die? Who will kill them? How will they die? Who will win this fight? These were all questions running through my brain to the very last minutes of the film and it was delightful to see it play out.

However, the film does regress a bit as its hour-and-a-half runtime ticks by. What starts as a well-scripted conversation between numerous characters full of witty banter and character-establishing one-liners eventually becomes overshadowed by the action, as is the problem with almost any action film to hit the big screen. As the bullets fly we begin to hear less and less creative and memorable lines from each character with some fading into complete obscurity. Hell there were at least two or three characters that I forgot were even in this movie by the halfway point, despite the best efforts of the filmmakers to put a bit of focus on where everyone is at during any given moment.

It’s a strange twist of fate for an otherwise entertaining and well-written film. It’s not often you see a movie take a step back in the middle of its run the way this one does when the fighting begins. It’s almost like the writers piled all the character development into the first 20 minutes of the film, hoping that would be enough to establish a connection to these gunslingers that would keep the viewer invested in what was to come. While this is actually absolutely how it really plays out, it does create a bit of a disconnect as each character meets their fate. It’s easy to find yourself caring less and less or any given character as the bodies pile up. It also makes the film feel more like two movies blended into one, the first being a film about a few wisecracking oddballs and the second being a straight up shoot em’ up. Still, I can’t fault the film too much because the characters do maintain their charm and throw a few creative lines at each other as the fighting commences, even if the dialogue is far from as effective as it is at the start. So for all my criticism I can give it somewhat of a pass for at least staying consistent with who it’s characters are.

In conclusion, “Free Fire” may not be one of the greatest films you’ll see in 2017, but it’s certainly a worthy and entertaining action film that promises to stand out in its own genre over time. An amazingly entertaining and engaging script and non-stop action keeps the viewer glued to the screen wondering what will happen next and despite the fact that it seems to trade its more charming attributes for more hard core action as it progresses, “Free Fire” still holds up as a prime example of a tasteful, no-holds-barred action done right.

 

GRADE: 4 Stars

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