Director Ben Wheatley’s “Free Fire” has the distinction of being the bloodiest film I’ve seen at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival. Once it gets going it is almost a constant ra-a-tat-tat of gunfire, with those wielding weapons either bloodily dispatched or wounded. There’s also a slight comic tinge to the mayhem.
In the screenplay written by Amy Jump and Wheatley and set in 1978, what sets off all of the fury is a gun deal that goes bad. Brie Larson as Justine sets up the deal, which is to take place in an old warehouse. The gun dealers are Sharlto Copely as Vernon and Armie Hammer as Ord. They are selling to Cillian Murphy as Chris and and Michael Smiley as Frank, who are with the IRA.
When the shootout starts a bag of money is what everyone tries the snatch. What drives the film is the oddball nature of the characters depicted, and the greed and nuttiness underlying the life and death determination to prevail.
Wheatley leavens the action with enough humor to justify seeing the picture as bordering on absurdist. One needs ear plugs as well as tolerance for so much shooting in a film, and there is really no incentive to root for anyone in particular. One can just root for the mess to be over. Reviewed November 23, 2016.