Action Blu-ray Review

'Free Fire' Blu-ray Review: From 'A Field in England' to a Tarantino-esque abandoned factory in Massachusetts

July 20, 2017Ben MK

A couple of years back, 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 past year, the UK director returned with 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 hits Blu-ray armed with an appropriately gritty 1080p transfer that captures the look and feel of the film quite nicely, whether it's small details like the texture of the cast's 1970s wardrobe and the bits of debris strewn about the factory floor, the movie's very specific color space, which is dominated by richly saturated, warm hues, or the strong contrast between light and dark tones, which gives the image a noir-like quality. As for the audio, the disc boasts a solid DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix that does well enough with dialogue and music. But where the track really shines is with the frequent blasts of gunfire, from handguns to automatic weapons, not to mention the sounds of bullets whizzing through the air and ricocheting off concrete and metal surfaces.

Elevation Pictures' two-disc Blu-ray combo pack includes an iTunes digital copy, a DVD and the following Blu-ray extras.

  • B-Roll (2:25) - Candid behind-the-scenes footage from the set.
  • Making Of (11:54) - Co-Writer/Director Ben Wheatley and the cast and crew touch on the premise of the movie, their experiences making it, the logistics of filming, the weapons, the special effects, the balance between the violence and the humor, and the tone of the movie.

Free Fire is available from Elevation Pictures as of July 18th, 2017. The Blu-ray features English and French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 tracks. The film is presented with English SDH subtitles. The total runtime is 1 Hr. 30 Mins.

* Reviewer's note: Portions of this Blu-ray review were adapted from my original TIFF review, published on September 9th, 2016.

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