Auteured states – Free Fire’s a Brit Reservoir Dogs
High Rise’s Ben Wheatley does a Tarantino
30 March, 2017 — By Dan Carrier
Brie Larson and Cillian Murphy in Free Fire
Directed by Ben Wheatley
Ben Wheatley is a wonderful director, responsible for such entertaining, original movies as A Field In England, a magic mushroom-saturated take on the English Civil War and Down Terrace, still the best British gangster film since The Long Good Friday.
With Free Fire, he once more shows his talent for simplicity – set in a tumble-down Boston factory (but shot in Brighton), it tells of an Irish gang attempting to strike a deal to buy a load of weapons from US gun runners.
The Irish contingent includes Chris (Cillian Murphy) , Frank (Michael Smiley) and his reprobate nephew, Stevo (Sam Riley). The deal seems to be going well with Vernon (Sharlto Copley, never missing a beat as a South African arms dealer) – until it transpires that junkie Stevo got into a bar fight the night before with Vern’s dogsbody Gordon (Noah Taylor) and the argument was nowhere near settled to either’s satisfaction.
And when it kicks off again, there is high-powered weaponry knocking around and a suitcase full of cash, which wraps up the emotions somewhat.
The likeness to Reservoir Dogs – a group caught in one building, armed to the teeth, with some issues to be ironed out – is obvious. This is Wheatley doing a Tarantino pastiche. But its black humour never reaches the same depths – the violence is cartoon-like and inhabits a completely different universe to Tim Roth slowly leaking his life away in a corner. It even feels that Wheatley has tried to find a suitable song to give it the 70s flavour, a vital part of Dog’s appeal, but the use of John Carpenter merely flashes by.
Because of such similarities, it doesn’t feel like a Wheatley original – it lacks the punch of his other work. It’s saved from being average by a witty script and any time in a cinema watching the marvellous Copley is well spent. It is a mark above Wheatley’s Tom Hiddleston romp High Rise, an indulgent film whose budget seemed to get in the way of his simple storytelling.
But while some of the oneliners are genuinely mirthful, the overall feel is this is a cinematic version of a waxed moustache on a hipster: well executed but essentially a frilly appendage to something obsessed with how it looks.