One of the most wonderful things about Free Fire is its simplicity. Coming from a filmmaker who has more often than not leaned on the edge of cerebral, this proves as a magnificent departure. A straight shoot-em-up action film, Free Fire delivers on its premise, without overcomplicating things.
The film takes place in the Boston of 1978. Two IRA members are meeting with a couple of American arms dealers to broker a deal. Tensions are high at the offset, and everything goes south incredibly quickly. What results is a high-octane shootout in the vein of Hard Boiled (1992) and Assault on Precinct 13 (1976).
The film features Brie Larson as, presumably, the token chick, Justine. The go-between for IRA members Frank (Wheatley regular Michael Smiley) and Chris (Cillian Murphy), and South African and American arms dealers Vernon (Sharlto Copley) and Martin (Babou Ceesay) respectively, Justine is the conductor of this soon-to-be-derailed train. But her tokenism (and, arguably, Martin’s) is quickly debunked. Both Justine and Martin are integral to the both the premise and execution of the film.
Larson’s turn as Justine is yet another reason to love her as an actress. She sheds the delicate or wounded skin of her previous characters from Short Term 12 (2013), The Spectacular Now (2013) and Room (2015). In its place is a suit of armor with matching heels. Equal parts feminine and ferocious, Larson is a refreshing joy.
With character actors like Ceesay, Smiley, and Noah Taylor alongside Copley, Murphy, Sam Riley, and a hilarious Armie Hammer, the whole ensemble works together brilliantly. Tossed in with excellent editing, wonderful sound and set design, a fantastic score, and some of the best writing we’ve seen yet from Wheatley and partner in crime and life Amy Jump, Free Fire is quite possibly the tightest, strongest film from Wheatley’s oeuvre.