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Free Fire

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Writer/director Ben Wheatley disappointed me with High-Rise (Tom Hiddleston), and he’s disappointed me again here. There’s nothing remotely interesting or original in this movie. The musical score and keyboard riff were almost directly lifted from the terrific film Submarine.The score was done by Portishead’s Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury, who did a nice job with Ex Machina, but not here.

The premise is Wheatley’s attempt at his version of Reservoir Dogs. He figures he can throw some interesting characters into a warehouse on a gun deal gone bad…and let them all shoot it out. Yet what made Reservoir Dogs so much better, is the dialogue. The jokes were funny while this movie is batting around .300. And when Michael Madsen cuts off a guy’s ear while dancing around to Stealer’s Wheel — it’s amusing. In this movie, the guy plays an 8-track of John Denver. Seriously, this joke has been so played out — the crazy action scene while a big thug is playing some cheesy soft rock.

And while I’m on the subject of Wheatley stealing from other films, what was the point of this movie taking place in the ‘70s? So we can look at an orange van? Or big, goofy mustaches and sideburns, as well as ugly leisure suits with big lapels. Yeah, well…after American Hustle, The Good Guys and a few other movies recently, we’re over being amused by the fashions from that decade. Spend more time writing a decent script. He got some attention for Sightseers, A Field in England, and Kill List. It’s a shame he seems to have regressed with the bigger budget he got.

The premise (what little there is of one), involves some IRA thugs (Michael Smiley, Cillian Murphy) buying guns from an arms dealer. Armie Hammer plays the guy with a beard and a blazer, as if he’s the smartest guy in the room. That’s fine, but his lines are lame. One of which include, when they all walk into the warehouse, “Come out, come out wherever you are.”

Once the shooting starts, his lines get worse. At one point, he takes roll call to see who’s left.

Not only do most of the lines fall flat, even the ones that make you laugh, also make you wonder…if you’re being shot at, or have been shot in the leg and are crawling to safety, is making a cute quip foremost on your mind? I also wondered why if bullets are flying from all angles (there are some fun ricochets off the concrete)…why do people poke their head up? Wouldn’t you just hunker down for safety reasons, and if somebody approaches, shoot them at that time. But this isn’t the type of movie where you can think logically. You’re supposed to just be excited by the pandemonium.

At one point my wife leaned in and said, “Don’t these guys ever run out of ammo?”

She had a terrific point, but by the time she brought it up…I was already wondering about lots of other things. One of those was why, with such an interesting group of actors, we know nothing about any of them. It makes it hard to have a rooting interest in who gets shot, or even care. So instead of learning about the characters, we just see a flashy South African (Sharlto Copley), and we’re supposed to laugh because of his loud suit and the other goons trying to figure out where he’s from. It was a bit hammy and over-the-top.

Brie Larson, coming off her Oscar win for Room, is criminally underused as a firearms expert who has friends on both sides of this transaction. The attempt at humor with her character, relies on guys trying to either pick her up, or comment on how much weight she’s gained.

Jack Reynor is a hot-headed nutjob, and those types of characters can be fun in a movie like this. You’re always on the edge of your seat wondering who will set them off and what they’ll do when they reach that point.

Babou Ceesay plays a former Black Panther that counts the money, and has an amusing scene after he’s shot in the head and survives.

Noah Taylor, along with the soundtrack, was also stolen from the movie Submarine. I can remember very little about his character. Lots of this movie is forgettable, although my ears are still ringing. It might be the loudest film I’ve ever seen.

Since I’m on the subject of my ears ringing, let’s talk about music. Enough with CCR. We just heard “Run Through the Jungle” in Kong: Skull Island. That song, along with “Fortune Son” need to be retired from films. Although they do get credit for playing “Do the Boop” by the relatively unknown punk band The Real Kids, who are from the Boston area, where this movie takes place. Surprisingly, the trailers for this movie had the great Ted Nugent song “Free for All” playing, which never finds its way into the film.

The film was gratuitous with its violence and it was tedious to sit through. It was an hour and 25 minutes, but felt like twice that.

2 stars out of 5.