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“Free Fire” shoots blanks

Director Ben Wheatley’s attempt at a B-movie shoot ‘em up comedy is almost a complete, for lack of a better phrase, misfire, that is is as unoriginal as it is repetitive. Set in Boston in 1978, “Free Fire” is comprised of essentially one long scene at a warehouse where an illegal gun deal unsurprisingly goes awry. Despite an interesting cast that includes the always excellent Brie Larson and Cillian Murphy and the charming and funny Armie Hammer, occasionally artful cinematography, and a halfway-decent score, the film offers very little in the way of interesting dialogue, engaging characters or even decent action.

A primary cast of around 12 is broken up into two sides: a group from the Irish Republican Army attempting to acquire a shipment of assault rifles from an over the top, and a shoulder pad wearing South African gun-runner named Vern (Sharlto Copley) and his associates. The sides end up getting into an altercation over what the bumbling Irishman Stevo (Sam Riley) did to the John Denver-loving character of Harry’s (Jack Reynor) cousin the previous night. Soon it becomes clear that someone is, of course, in it for themselves, and the characters are ambushed by two aging gunmen.

The film quickly devolves into a series of f-bombs aimed at the various gangsters, and people getting shot in the leg, shoulder and arm, over and over again. The filmmakers clearly are big fans of director Quentin Tarantino’s overly long film “The Hateful Eight” (2015) which followed a similar formula, but had actually compelling characters, dialogue and charm that “Free Fire” does not achieve.

Despite only being 90 minutes, the film’s refusal to deviate from the plot structure established at the 30-minute mark makes the whole affair a tiring slog. Sitting through accent-related humor, uninspired use of vulgarity and soulless characters made it feel like I was subjected to the length of the entire “Godfather” franchise, twice.

By having the film take place in one room, Wheatley takes what is a bold move, and squanders it with largely unoriginal slapstick humor, hard-to-follow shootouts and one-dimensional characters.

Grade: D+

This film opens Friday, April 21 in theatres everywhere.

growell@theeagleonlne.com


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