On the one hand, there are the traveling Irishmen Chris and Frank as customers who want to buy assault rifles for the civil war at home. For the removal of the goods, they also have the helpers Stevo and Bernie with them. Meanwhile, Vernon is waiting on the seller side with his partner Martin and their assistants Harry and Gordon. In addition, the distinguished beard bearer Ord, as another middleman without clear loyalties, comes to the meeting point.
A circumscribed scene, two handfuls of people with unclear intentions and the multitude of loaded weapons – no, it really does not take foresight to recognize this powder keg as such. It is therefore not surprising that there is a rapid bang in the constellation.
What is exciting, however, is the consequence with which Wheatley and his well-established production team above all co-author and life partner Amy Jump tell an escalation familiar from countless B-movies to excess. Because while the shootout usually marks the cathartic finale of a film, the soon-to-be-occurring and then never-ending shootout in how to hack free fire unlimited diamond is the sole principle of action.
Hostages of their own violence
Who shoots first and why at whom remains an effectively staged minor matter. Rather, the core of Wheatley’s farce is the compulsiveness with which the characters advance their mutual annihilation.
Because the more pithily the combatants, who are stylishly dressed in their seventies look, formulate their demands during short breaks in the fire – and in the same way verbally and imaginatively cover the other side with insults – the more clearly they reveal their impotence and expose themselves as hostages to their own ritualized violence. But who survives long enough to maybe break out of the role pattern?
The fact that this question remains exciting until the end despite the exhibited construction of the scenario is thanks to Free Fire in addition to formal perfection in the image (camera: Laurie Brody) and editing outstanding ensemble. Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, Sharlto Copley and their fellow players and opponents, as it were, know exactly the stereotypes that they embody enthusiastically.
But wisely they don’t ironize their garishly contoured roles. Her intelligent charging between theatricality and empathy in characters that are not exactly charming per se fits seamlessly into a film that consciously seeks the ambivalence between cool reflection and synaesthetic intoxication.
However, there is nothing glorious about the often drastically illustrated acts of violence. On the contrary: gangsters have never literally shot each other in the leg, and it has seldom been so slow in the cinema to die. The increasingly headless struggles for life and death are all devoid of gangster romance and instead grotesque and bitterly evil.
There is no room for ballet-like action, martial omnipotence fantasies or weapon fetishism. “Free Fire” is even more convincing than a subversive and self-destructive steel thunderstorm.