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Author Topic: Tut's Tutillating Reviews™: The Return  (Read 469 times)

Diego Tutweiller

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Re: Tut's Tutillating Reviews™: The Return
« Reply #20 on: June 15, 2017, 01:21:55 am »
Free Fire

I haven't cottoned on to Ben Wheatley's directorial style as much as others have. His 2016 film High-Rise was a visually impressive yet overwhelmingly blunt class warfare movie with very little to offer in the way of original social commentary. The film's vision of societal collapse was fairly shallow, and Wheatley seemed more concerned with setting up memorable visual moments than offering any thoughts on inequality or decadence. Even at its best moments, the movie was noncommittal fluff.

Wheatley's latest film, Free Fire, does away with the pretense of social commentary that plagued High-Rise, and the change is arguably an improvement. But while the movie does have its charms, it still lacks originality, a trait that was similarly absent in High-Rise. I'm not one to complain much about films that reuse time-tested premises, so long as they shake up the formula a little bit. Free Fire doesn't do much in the way of that, and the comparisons made between it and the films of Quentin Tarantino and Guy Ritchie are numerous and warranted. It's fleetingly entertaining, but easily forgettable.

The film takes place in one location-- an abandoned Boston warehouse-- which functions as a meeting place between a group of IRA members and a group of gun dealers. Through a messy turn of events, the deal goes south, and the two sides engage in a gun battle that eventually leaves them all crippled on the floor, scrabbling through dust and glass to attack one another as they bleed out. There are a number of ways this story could have been made more original and interesting. Wheatley could have taken a cue from 2016's Green Room and constructed a more sinister tone, turning his film into a mix between dark comedy and genuine horror. Or he could have committed completely to the Tarantino/Ritchie route, and toyed with a slightly more complex plot while still maintaining the movie's lighthearted tone. It's an intriguing premise, but while it's enough to fill a blurb on the back of a DVD sleeve, it's not enough for a 90-minute feature. So, what does Wheatley do to shake off the obvious Tarantino comparisons and make the movie his own?

Well... not much. Free Fire has plenty of gunfights, as well as a few clever insults and one-liners. It sets up some compelling action pieces, and definitely delivers on the violence. And the cast is largely believable, even if there aren't any standout performances. But rarely does it innovate on the genre. When characters turn on one another, it's not because they've discovered some shocking revelation, or because their business interests diverged. It's because someone gave them a dirty look, or someone was in their way, or because they got shot by accident. The gunfight itself erupts as a result of a personal feud, which is a far less interesting impetus for violence than, say, the plot of Reservoir Dogs or The Hateful Eight. It all comes across as very forced, and as the gunfight mushrooms out of control, it's hard to root for one side or even one character. It's wholly uninteresting.

Now, the climax is arguably an interesting plot twist, but here's my problem with it (without getting into spoilers). If you're going to have the character we least expect turn out to be the villain, we're going to have expected it from the get-go. It was painfully obvious to me who the "winner" of the gunfight would be after the character spoke their first line of dialogue. I don't know if this was intentional, or if Wheatley was actually trying to do some sort of Usual Suspects-style plot twist, but either way it didn't work at all. The "twist" is just as blunt and obvious as the rest of the film.

For all I've said about it here, Free Fire is far from unwatchable. It's actually a pretty good time, at least in the moment, and the action scene-to-scene is well-shot and choreographed. As a whole though, the movie did not capture my imagination or my curiosity. It's a cheap action knock-off that borrows from much better films, and you'll be much better off watching any of the films I compared it to in this review than spending your time on it. Its premise is solid, but it's not creative enough to justify its existence. Just like High-Rise was, it's all style and no substance.
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