Hi everyone, Bryan here….
Film Portion Reviewed by Janet White:
In typical 70s film fashion, Free Fire opens with an aerial scan of the city below. Curvaceous, bold letters displayed nearly every cast member and some of the crew. This got very old, long, and kept the pace slow. Two men waiting in an alley… (Sounds like a bad joke, it was). Stevo (Sam Riley) and Bernie (Enzo Cilenti) meet up with Justine (Brie Larson), Chris (Cillian Murphy), and Frances (Michael Smiley) for a shady gun buy with Ord (Armie Hammer), Vernon (Sharlto Copley), Martin (Babou Ceesay), Gordon (Noah Taylor), and Harry (Jack Reynor, how did they turn this hottie into a slob?). Great cast, right? Well, great casts alone do not a great film make. The dialogue and plot points must harness and ride with that talent.
Inundated with morons and piss-poor shooting for a calamitous combination, Free Fire leaves the audience either shaking their heads or bowing over laughing. Between the mumbling of lines and poor volume control, I missed bits of the dialogue for sure. It is as if they were aiming to repeat what Tarantino did with Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs, but they were not clever enough. Complete with wondrous never-ending bullet supplies and a villain’s miraculous ability to stave off death repeatedly aka “movie magic,” Free Fire simply does not make much sense. Could a person, shot in their right arm, fire a weapon (even automatic rifles) with their right hand?
Murphy is one of my favorite actors. He is handsome, talented, and his Irish accent gets me every time. From films like 28 Days Later, Batman Begins series, Inception, In Time, and Anthropoid to the TV series Peaky Blinders. His range is expansive and he presents a strong presence in any production. Diminished by the overload of ignorance, are Murphy’s skills in Free Fire. Yet another hottie is Hammer (though it is masked in this film, practically everyone is covered with hair) who has a killer deep voice to go with his commanding demeanor. I first enjoyed Hammer in The Social Network as the dashing Winklevoss twins, but he successfully kept the momentum going with J. Edgar and The Birth of a Nation.
Adding much stupid humor to the story is Sharlto Copley who has evoked love, hate, and pure annoyance in me in various films and portrayals, i.e., District 9 and Maleficent. Rounding out the cast is Larson (there are more main roles, but I cannot list them all, would you read a book?). I have only seen Larson in The Gambler prior to Free Fire and loved her sass. Additionally, I heard great things of her performance in Room (yes, I will see it eventually). Although, in Free Fire, I was not impressed. It could have been writing though.
Free Fire is a peculiar little film. You walk out wondering if you liked the film or was it just annoying. At 88 minutes, you wonder if that was still too much. Honestly, it would have played better as a short. John Denver was an interesting choice for the soundtrack. His music fit only part of the time with the plot. In addition, the score did not consistently fit the shooting sequences either. The music sounded as though it was a build to good climax, but the action did not substantiate this.
For a film that shoots (camera and gun, ha) everyone crawling on the ground for practically the entire length, a few good laughs (for me, the majority of the audience was in an uproar of hilarity) were experienced. Hammer had most of them, dialogue and delivery wise.
The Video: Free Fire comes with a 1080p HD transfer and is presented in 2.39:1 aspect ratio, which looks mostly great. For most of the film, scenes take place in a run-down and abandoned warehouse that is poorly lit in a confined setting. There is a yellow-ish tint to the image, which at times can hinder the detail and other colors, which is unfortunate, because the 1970’s style clothing could have looked impressive here. For most of the movie, colors look rustic, dusty and a bit muted due to the yellow filter.
The green in the cash money looks decent and some of the reds and blues in the wardrobe comes through nicely, but for the most part, colors are steeped in yellow. Detail is mostly sharp too, but due to the grittiness of the film and the harsh yellow filters, some of the detail comes through soft. In the well-lit scenes, individual hairs on the actor’s faces and the gory gun shot wounds look very good and realistic, even when someone gets their face blown off.
Some detail in the shot up stone and bricks inside the warehouse look detailed as well as some of the textures in the costumes, which gives the film an almost grindhouse look and feel to the image. Black levels are mostly deep and inky, but tend to bleed brighter in a few scenes, but the skin tones are natural, given the yellow filter. There were no other video issues to talk about.
The Audio: This release comes with a lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix, which sounds excellent, however I think a Dolby Atmos track would have been much appreciated, given the crazy amount of gunfire and sound effects coming from all directions throughout the entire film. Still, this DTS-HD 5.1 mix sounds very good. There is phenomenal directionality here with every gunshot and scream packing a powerful punch with an added low end force that just kicks you in the chest every time someone fires a gun. It’s quite exhilarating.
There are a ton of moments when all of the characters are yelling and shooting at once, which is where this track truly shines. The movement of the sound channels that perfectly balance every noise with depth and distance is truly stunning, immersing you into this chaotic place. The reverb of bullet ricochets are great too. Dialogue is clear and easy to follow along with the score that perfectly captures the intensity of each moment. There were no pops, cracks, hiss, or shrills noted here either.
Audio Commentary – Director Ben Wheatley, and actors Cillian Murphy and Jack Reynor deliver a fun commentary track as they discuss making the fun film, and just what a good time they had making it. They talk about the story, characters, shooting in one location on a tight set, using the guns, and some technical information. It’s a great listen.
The Making of Free Fire (HD, 16 Mins.) – This is a fun look at the making of the film with cast and crew interviews, discussing the wardrobe, makeup effects, the stunt work, the guns, and having fun on set.
THE ULTIMATE WORD
Free Fire is a fun-as-hell film with ridiculous characters and a ton of gun shots. It’s as if the director become a 10 year old kid again and made the film we all wanted to make at that age. Tons of blood, carnage, guns, and fun dialogue. It’s one of those films that you can re-watch and find something new each time to like about it. The video presentation is mostly good, and the audio track is great, but could have been better suited with a Dolby Atmos track. The commentary track is worth listening to and the making of bonus feature is worth watching, but there’s not much else, leaving this Blu-ray release Recommended!