Free Fire (2016)

Starring: Cillian Murphy, Sharlto Copley, Michael Smiley, Armie Hammer, Brie Larson, Sam Riley, Noah Taylor, Babou Ceesay, Enzo Cilenti, Jack Reynor

Directed by: Ben Wheatley

Rating: 1 2 3 4

It's the '70s. We know this because everyone has a horrible moustache. Some men from Northern Ireland (IRA, obvs, though it's never made explicit) have come to Boston to buy some guns from a huge consortium fronted by a mouthy, sartorially slick South African (Sharlto Copley – who else?). It all goes horribly wrong.

Babou Ceesay, Brie Larson, Armie Hammer, Sharlto Copley and Noah Taylor in Free Fire

This is really all you need to know about this ultra-violent, uncomfortably enjoyable 90 minute gun fight. If your favourite bit of Tarantino's films is the bit at the end when everybody shoots everybody else, this is the film for you. (Although for me the fact that one of the terrorists is played by Cillian Murphy, still drop dead gorgeous despite a ginger porn star 'tache, is another enticement...)

Michael Smiley and Cillian Murphy in Ben Wheatley's Free Fire

That's not to say there isn't some great characterisation, from Sam Riley's slapdash junkie henchman to Michael Smiley's grim, businesslike Ulster gangster, but mostly this is a film about shooting people.

Or is it? Is it not perhaps about the baffling contradictory dichotomy of human nature? How we waste our lives on drink and drugs and cigarettes and violence, yet all the time cling to existence with a stubborn tenacity that's as admirable as it's bullheaded. In Free Fire, characters are shot, shot and shot again; beaten, cut and set on fire and yet THEY STILL DON'T DIE! They struggle on, crawling on their bellies through dust and dirt and detritus (this film must have been hellish to make) and if that ain't a dark mirror reflection of the human condition, I don't know what is.

So bravo (again) Ben Wheatley, surely one of the most audacious and exciting directors currently working (especially since Nicolas Winding Refn has gone wrong) who, in making a film that's basically a bunch of gangsters in a deserted factory shooting at each other, has nailed the human spirit. And made the most exhilarating gun fire film since The Quick and the Dead. Kudos.

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