Vault Movie Review: "Free Fire"
Set in Boston in 1978, Justine (Brie Larson) has found herself in a tense situation. She is an intermediary in a meeting between two dangerous gangs. The meeting should be pretty straight forward. One gang wants guns and has the money to pay for them. The other gang has guns to sell. However, when dealing with high stakes like this, tensions are always high.
Neither group really trusts the other, so everyone is on edge. Nonetheless, both groups have honest intentions, so the meeting is expected to go well. However, it would not take much for this meeting to go horribly wrong. Everyone is nervous, scared, and there are plenty of weapons to go around. Unfortunately, one of the gang members had an altercation with a member of the other gang the night before. They still have unfinished business, and when they see each other, the meeting begins to take a tragic turn.
The Pros & Cons
The Cast (+3pts)
The Chaos (+4pts)
The Violence (+5pts)
The Ending (-5pts)
Pro: The Cast (+3pts)
I liked most of the cast in this movie. It was filled with talented actors, but unfortunately, they were not given a ton to work with. The writing was poor, which I will get into later in this review, but the actors did the best they could. With Brie Larson, Sharlto Copley, Armie Hammer, and Cillian Murphy, the filmmakers had a stacked cast. The rest of the cast was decent in their respective roles as well, but this would be a very long review if I mentioned every single cast member.
My point is that all of the characters needed some work, but the performances were not the parts that needed work. The performers were able to add personality to their characters, even though the characters had no development. The cast brought their own thing to their respective characters, and it helped distinguish each of them. The variety of personalities helped keep the film interesting, and the cast did a great job of building and maintaining the tension between the characters. The cast was solid, I just wish the writing behind the characters lived up to the cast's talent.
Con: Characters (-5pts)
As I already mentioned, the character development was very poor. This hurt the movie in a couple of major ways. The first was that the actors did not have much to sink their teeth into. This made the talented cast feel like a waste, but the cast was still able to come up with enough personality to make their characters feel unique. It was not enough to make up for the poor character development entirely, but it certainly helped.
The second way that the poor character development hurt this movie was related to how many characters were in this story, and how many roles or groups were involved in the meeting. Maybe I am just a dummy, which is totally possible, but I had a pretty tough time following which character belonged to which group, and what roles they each played in their respective group. This made the meeting, and the story around it, feel pretty incoherent. In writing the synopsis for this review, this story may seem simple. Believe me when I say that it may seem simple on paper, but the filmmakers executed that premise very poorly. By adding so many poorly written characters into this story, it ended up hurting my ability to follow this story, as I had almost no idea what was going on.
Pro: The Chaos (+4pts)
One of this movie's strengths ended up being a bit of a double-edged sword. The plus side was that the movie felt very chaotic. Once everything started going down, it really felt like anything could happen. There were just so many characters running around in absolute desperation as they were fighting for their lives.
Every character was desperate, willing to do anything to get out of this meeting alive, and they were mostly just looking out for themselves. Lines were crossed, and there was so much going on that it was honestly a little difficult to follow (but that just made it feel more chaotic). The meeting quickly turned into a war-zone of sorts, with things happening all over the place. This made the movie felt pretty unpredictable, and kept me watching in anticipation of what would happen next.
Con: Random (-6pts)
As I said before, the chaos was, unfortunately, a bit of a double-edged sword. There is a fine line between being chaotic and being random. This movie seemed to see-saw over that line. There were times where I thought the chaos was great, but there were a lot of things that happened that just felt unnecessarily random.
I think the reason why a lot of this felt random was because of the poor character development. The writers did a poor job of setting up the characters in this situation, so when they each tried to do something desperate, I had no connection to the character doing it. I did not care about the characters involved, and I did not understand why they did some of the things that they did. This made a lot of the actions or incidents feel hollow, and when you have a string of actions and incidents that you have no connection to, it is going to start feeling pretty random.
Pro: The Violence (+5pts)
To be honest, I was pleasantly surprised with the violence in this movie. Action movies are usually over-the-top in one way or another. Some are far more over-the-top than others, but most tend to exaggerate the action to some degree. Most action is played as entertaining, instead of brutal, and most characters in action movies are able to endure an unrealistic amount of punishment. Free Fire was no such movie.
In this movie, the filmmakers did an excellent job of making the action feel real and brutal. Each gunshot had weight to it, and you really get a sense that these characters are in serious danger. The filmmakers also did a good job of making the injuries feel realistic, as the characters were not exactly walking off gunshot wounds as if they were no big deal. The filmmakers made the action feel brutal, dangerous, and real, while the actors made it obvious that their characters felt every hit they took. The action was not over-the-top, but do not mistake that to mean that it was not entertaining. The action felt brutal, it felt violent, and it ended up being one of the film’s strengths.
Con: The Ending (-5pts)
Okay, I am going to keep this brief to avoid spoilers. That being said, the ending of the movie felt like a bit of a disappointment. Was this related to a weak plot and poor character development? Absolutely. I did not have a connection with any of the characters, and had a tough time following which characters were on which side. This led to me not really being invested in the ending, because it felt like just another random event a series of random events.
Grade: C- (71pts)
First, let me say what I liked about this movie. I liked a lot of the actors that made up the cast (Brie Larson included), and I thought they each did a good job of giving as much personality to their characters as possible. I also really liked the action, as it felt both chaotic and unpredictable, while also being surprisingly brutal and violent. Unfortunately, these qualities were in an overall poorly written movie.
The chaotic nature of what was happening was a result of having so many characters in the movie. The filmmakers, rather than having a lean set of well-developed characters, decided to cram in as many poorly written characters as possible. This made the plot confusing, made me not care about any of the characters, and made everything that was happening feel random. This all led to an ending that I was not all that invested in, because I was not invested in the story leading up to it. The movie had a really talented cast, and action that felt brutal and real, but the writers really dropped the ball with the story around it all.