Free Fire

The trials and tribulations of a gun deal gone very, very wrong take the spotlight in director Ben Wheatley’s constant shootout, over the span of one night in 1978, titled Free Fire.

Confined to the close quarters of an abandoned warehouse, an intermediary (Armie Hammer) finds the tenuous weapons deal between a career thug (Michael Smiley) and his IRA connection (the usually fluid Cillian Murphy) to be spiraling towards chaos when a South African gun runner named Vernon (Sharlto Copley) hauls out guns that have not been agreed upon. Set in Boston, where everyone is already rude, suspicious and off-the-cuff, once Vernon’s driver (Jack Reynor) spots the junkie he trounced in a bar fight the previous night, all bets are off!

Produced by Martin Scorsese, while a director like Quentin Tarantino would’ve been contented to go for the goofy, Wheatley parlays verbal video game reactions into a claustrophobic gut-wagon with more spent cartridges than six dozen spaghetti western standoffs. I could swear this happened a few blocks south of 110th Street against the dingy décor of the barn from Prime Cut, saddled to outtakes from The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre with Warren Oates and Tony Franciosa coming out of a drug induced coma!

With John Denver on 8-track blaring, particle fragments sifting and a cache of money making the rounds, the agony of marginalized people is on full display strung out in the squalor between tossing empty clips and insults at friends and foes alike.

In walks the soon-to-be main squeeze for Tony Stark (aka Carol Danvers, aka Captain Marvel), Brie Larson, who lured me into the theater for Free Fire’s unceremonious opening, and as Justine she lures these two camps with temperance above the fray, pivoting against the male egos vying for her attention, using sexual duplicity as an advantage over death merchants and junkies. A classic femme fatale who, the moment she enters the room, makes it clear that she’s smarter than the surrounding participants. So how is a film about a shootout anything other than 90 minutes of “kiss-kiss/bang-bang”?

As with any gritty 1970s tough guy flick, which appears from the start to be Wheatley’s obsession, this picture has a sobering social angle set in ’78 but relevant nonetheless!

Neither the pain nor swearing need jokes. It’s absurdly hilarious that with the grudges held, the political climate of its time, the iconoclastic facial hair and international makeup of the parties involved, the chances for success are dim. Set in a warehouse like modern day raves, with muzzles flaming to highlight that apartheid is in full swing and Irish terrorists are among yesterday’s deplorables, the movies is not just about guns! It’s about rampant barbarism, easily offended nuance, that overall malaise where allies become adversaries over a misspoken snarky remark or insulting gesture. Yeah, similar to today, and to further complications, a third party awaits to join the festivities!

It’s reflective of the continuing debate over firearms and Second Amendment rights shadowing that unaddressed question: with all of these guns, why risk being a jerk?

And, even with the high caliber weapons, it’s handguns that initiate the offensive. Even without “military grade assault rifles,” the damage is perpetuated by human nature!

What are the magic words to be used against a maniac?

There are crowbar whackings in Free Fire. There’s flammable death by dowsing. Heads crushed by vehicle wheels! And the best, most efficient and humanely accurate way to defend oneself remains shooting the culprit!

So if we get rid of all these guns, all that guarantees is you’d face more medieval injuries and death.

The scintillating hypocrisy of the anti-gun advocates is they preen through heart-wrenching foibles to make themselves look reasonably compassionate without considering such improbables as organized theocratic death squads or sizeable opponents who can’t be reasoned with or may be immune to their jocularity.

If they ever manage to convince enough people to impede or restrict law-abiding citizens from owning guns, the bikers will run the streets!

Free Fire uses the phrase, “All Guns, No Control!” as its promotional slogan, but the more frightening scenario stems from “All Control, No Guns!”

Pat explanations always result in tyranny.