Free Fire

Ben Wheatley got off to a very good start with his first feature, Down Terrace. Since then, it’s been largely disappointing. Sightseers is fine, and I was surprised to find that A Field in England wasn’t as bad as I’d expected (although it’s still not good), but I just can’t see what other people apparently find appealing about either Kill List or High-Rise. I only decided to take on Free Fire because Brie Larson is in it and she generally makes good choices. But not this time.

The movie is set in the 1970s. Larson, Cillian Murphy, and others are trying to buy assault rifles from Armie Hammer, Sharlto Copley (who, like Wheatley, also seems to have peaked early in his film career), and others. Things get off to a bad start when the buyers learn that they’re not the guns they wanted, and then they get worse when a druggie gopher the buyers brought along had an unfavorable history with a Seth Rogen-looking gopher the sellers brought along. Then the shooting starts.

That’s it. That’s the entire movie. It’s a premise that would take maybe ten or fifteen minutes in a regular film, but this one stretches it out to an hour and a half. As you might expect, there are several dead spots where not much is going on, since a six-on-six shootout can only have so much action. The filmmakers do their best to stretch it out by giving them all magical guns that never seem to hit anything and also never seem to run out of ammunition, but that can only hold your interest for so long.

One thing they didn’t try was making the characters interesting or likable. They didn’t use the time to explore their backstories or motivations or learn much about them at all. Brie Larson’s character, as the only woman, is treated as an object of sexual desire and isn’t taken seriously otherwise (which, to be fair, is probably the most believable thing in the movie), but she also doesn’t do anything to dispel the ideal that she’s only there for eye candy. Her character certainly isn’t a badass, doesn’t seem particularly brave, and the little revolver she keeps in her purse is just as inaccurate and rarely in need of a reload as everyone else’s.

It’s really hard to say much more about the movie because there isn’t any more to it. It probably would’ve made a fine short, but there’s just nothing in it to justify its feature-length runtime.