90 minutes long, and “Free Fire” is mostly about bullets and dialogue. So much of that and the dark scenery goes on for so long that you start to grow weary. I’m just glad I didn’t see it at night.
The premise: a group of Brits (led by Cillian Murphy) meet up with two Americans (Armie Hammer and Brie Larson) outside a Boston warehouse in 1978 to pick up some weapons they ordered from the quirky arms dealer Vernon (Sharlto Copley). They’re not the weapons they ordered, as it turns out, but that’s not the problem. The problem involves an IRA member named Stevo (Sam Riley), who abused a 17-year-old girl, and gets beaten up by her cousin Harry (Jack Reynor). They immediately reunite, and then bullets fly. Now it’s a night for survival.
Bear in mind, my opening paragraph doesn’t mean I hated the movie. I didn’t hate it; I just wasn’t too thrilled by it. The dark scenery makes you a bit weary, the gun play is wall-to-wall, and the characters aren’t really that focused. At least I think so, because the shooting got in my way.
“Free Fire” succeeds only in its casting and production values. Hammer, Reynor, Copley, and Larson are all fantastic; but most of my praise belongs to Hammer for his ability to play the charming American with a big mouth. And the only times I did laugh is when he cuts his fingers on a broken van window, and Reynor laughs; and when Copley nearly gets burned and shoots another IRA member (Michael Smiley).
The movie looks great with its warehouse setting, special effects, slow vans moving, stairs, sprinklers, and dirt. You could just look at those images all day. But the lesson is for these kind of crime comedies is you need a story, and not just bullets.