Action Crime

'Free Fire' TIFF 2016 Review: A retro take on 'Reservoir Dogs'

September 9, 2016Ben MK

Last year, Ben Wheatley made a splash at TIFF with High-Rise, a darkly funny, at times graphic adaptation of J.G. Ballard's dystopic 1975 novel of the same name, and a film that was set almost exclusively within the retro-futuristic confines of a towering apartment block. This year, the UK director is back with his follow-up, Free Fire, a '70s-inspired action-thriller that feels cut from a similar cloth.

This time, the setting is an abandoned umbrella factory in 1978 Massachusetts, where IRA members Chris (Cillian Murphy) and Frank (Michael Smiley) have arranged to purchase several crates worth of M16 assault rifles from gun runners Vernon (Sharlto Copley) and Martin (Babou Ceesay), in a deal brokered by Americans Justine (Brie Larson) and Ord (Armie Hammer). However, when a personal dispute breaks out between one of Chris and Frank's goons, Stevo (Sam Riley), and one of Vernon and Martin's thugs, Harry (Jack Reynor), things quickly begin to go south, resulting in a Mexican standoff where who will survive is anybody's guess.

Also starring Noah Taylor and Enzo Cilenti, Free Fire is sparse on plot, revolving mostly around the fire fight that erupts once tempers start to flare. That being said, Wheatley and co-writer Amy Jump do a great job imbuing these characters with enough backstory and charisma, so that viewers will care what happens once the bullets start to fly. Violent and bloody, yet with plenty of breathing room for suspense and humor as well, Free Fire is effectively Wheatley's retro vision of Reservoir Dogs. As such, it's Tarantino fans who may appreciate this film the most.

Free Fire is receiving its World premiere as part of TIFF 2016's Midnight Madness programme. Its runtime is 1 Hr. 30 Min.

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