Some films are immediate cult movies the moment they hit the screens. Some achieve cult status over time as audiences appreciate the work and word of mouth spreads. Other movies actively set out to become cults from the off and are actively made to that end. This can be done in a crass, commercial way (step forward Sharknado) or, in some instances, in a more refined manner. The latter seems to be the ambition of Free Fire.
To suggest the plot is minimalist would be an understatement. Set in late 70’s Boston, Irishmen Frank (played by Michael Smiley) & Chris (Cilian Murphy) are meeting in a warehouse to finalise an arms deal brokered by Justine (Brie Larson). After meeting up with dealers Ord (Armie Hammer) and South African Vernon (the show-stealing Sharlto Copley) things start to take a turn for the worse leading to a comically violent shootout with bullets and zinger one-liners flying in from all angles.
Over 90% of the film is set in one open warehouse space but the lack of locations is not a distraction. If anything, it brings a sense of appreciation of what is achievable with a talented cast and well-written dialogue. There are also some very clever uses of sound throughout. As a scene develops from one character’s perspective, you can hear others in the room off camera but at differing volumes and possibly just on one side of the surround sound. This provides a great sense of location and distance for each person within this confined space.
There are a few downsides. Larson vanishes for noticeable portions of the movie and can come across at times as Veronica Corningstone with a gun which works in some respects but not in others. There are also some lulls towards the middle of the film and elements of repetition, unfortunate in a 90-minute movie, but these are minor niggles. It also helps to suspend disbelief when it comes to ammo versus shots fired which reaches borderline Commando levels, however it does add to the preposterous situation these characters find themselves in.
Released to surprisingly very little fanfare this could easily be written off as gangsters for scenesters but that would be an injustice. This is a movie with a tight and funny script based on a simple premise and it does not try to be anything more. For an audience hoping for character depth or to leave with a deeper insight into life, this film will fail to deliver. However, for snappy Tarantinoesque one-liners within a Guy Richie environment seek out Free Fire.
Free Fire is in UK cinemas from 31 March 2017.