Sam Peckinpah meets Quentin Tarantino with a splash of Martin Scorsese in Ben Wheatley’s bullet-riddled and chaotic (and thankfully brief) shoot `em up “Free Fire” (A24). Set in an abandoned Boston factory in the late 1970s, Free Fire is what happens when a black-market arms deal goes awry.
From the outset, none of the shady characters completely trusts the others. Who can blame them? When the arsenal is brought out for display, guns are drawn in case anyone gets any funny ideas. The briefcase full of cash is verified by Martin using a currency counter machine.
Even before there is any bloodshed, there is already bad blood in the air. Unpredictable Stevo is wearing the wounds of a bar fight from the previous night. When Vernon’s associate Harry (Jack Reynor), who inflicted those wounds after Stevo “bottled” his cousin, recognizes him, all hell breaks loose. After the fists comes the guns, of which there is an abundance, and bullets fly for nearly an hour. No one is unharmed, including a pair of interlopers, and by the end there is a surprising number of dwindling survivors.
At ninety minutes, Free Fire is still about 10 minutes too long. The ultra-violence is interspersed with dark comedy that manages to elevate the carnage. One thing is certain, you’ll never hear John Denver’s “Annie’s Song” in quite the same way again. Rating: B-
Watch the trailer for "Free Fire" now: