Review: Brie Larson Plays a Really Intense Game of Laser Tag in Free Fire

3.5/5 stars.

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The bullet-infested Free Fire–from executive producer Martin Scorsese–is the latest mashup of style and violence from the mind of England’s ever-ambitious cult director Ben Wheatley (High Rise, Kill List).

In Free Fire, two Irishmen (Cillian Murphy, Michael Smiley) rendezvous at a derelict warehouse in Boston, 1978, to buy a vanload of automatic weapons from an American with vague connections (Armie Hammer) and a South African arms dealer (Sharlto Copley). There is also a lot of regrettable ‘70s fashion.

As Justine, the intermediary brokering the deal, Brie Larson once again rolls her eyes to greatness, upholding the delicate balance of male ego with a dose of mild mockery until everything inevitably goes south. It’s then that Free Fire shifts gears, turning into a 90-minute shootout that’s not unlike a really, really intense game of laser tag.

While crates of rifles and pistols litter the floor of the warehouse, Free Fire’s true arsenal is Wheatley’s deep bench of actors. Hammer’s performance–he’s really just recreating Henry Cavill’s role in The Man from U.N.C.L.E.–will make you once again question why he’s not more famous. Also amongst the chaos, Smiley, Sam Riley, and the always-underused Noah Taylor also stand out, offering up one-liners as they shoot indiscriminately at each other. In one particularly great moment, one of the guys reloads, saying, “I don’t even know which side I’m on!”


Though the film does suffer from “Smurfette” syndrome–Larson is the only actress alongside a dozen men–it’s appropriate in this context. I doubt there were many female thugs making arms deals in 1970s Boston. As such, Wheatley could have very well limited Free Fire to an all-boys club in the vein of Reservoir Dogs, the other shoot-‘em-up-in-a-warehouse flick, but he thankfully doesn’t.

Larson’s inclusion proves fruitful, and Justine quickly becomes the one person you hope will make it out alive. A large percentage of the Free Fire shoot involved the recent Oscar winner crawling around a warehouse and covered in fake blood (not necessarily her own fake blood, mind you). At the premiere of Free Fire in Toronto, Wheatley was quick to laugh at the absurdity of Larson rolling around in dirt for an entire shoot. The film may be all sound and fury, signifying nothing, but its action choreography and genre-aware humor make it a definite must-see for those on the lookout for nonstop entertainment.

Free Fire, which premiered this weekend at the Toronto International Film Festival, is slated for a wide release in 2017.

Images via Rook Films

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