I suppose it’s no secret that I have a reputation of enjoying weird indie movies. One of my coworkers went to my site recently, and told me that he got the impression that I “hate everything that’s mainstream” (which is absurd). But yes, I enjoy indie movies because they often provide a different experience instead of the same experience over and over again.
So when I saw previews for this movie months ago, I was pretty excited. A character driven, stylistic, violent film with indie darlings like Cillian Murphy, Brie Larson, and Sharlto Copley? Sign me up. I’m down.
So now that I’ve watched the film, I can definitively say that I had a good time, but the entire experience was really underwhelming.
I have some respect for the film for not treating its audience like a bunch of idiots and spelling out the characters’s motivations (but that respect may be bulked by the fact that I saw The Circle a couple days ago).
I’m a big fan of the motto “show, don’t tell.” Unfortunately, Free Fire doesn’t do much showing either. All of the characters are thinly developed and basically all boil down to the same character traits:
- They’re all assholes.
- They all speak in sarcastic, cynical quips.
- They all suck at shooting unless the plot needs to be furthered along.
Now the first two character traits are fine. It doesn’t necessarily bother me when characters are unlikable, and it doesn’t bother me if they’re cynical bastards (because I’m a cynical bastard), but because every single character is this way, I found myself not caring about whether or not they get killed. And when you don’t care what happens to any of the characters, the tension that is felt from these kind of wild firefight scenarios quickly dissipates. Aside from maybe Cillian Murphy, there really isn’t anybody that has any redeemable qualities.
Their snideness and their incompetence sure do make for some humorous and outrageous scenes, but that’s about as far as the enjoyment factor goes for any of these characters.
Once the inevitable shootout happens, almost every character gets shot in the leg, forcing everyone to limp and crawl around. This was a humorous concept at first, but after a while, it felt like a cheap gimmick that was stretching the plot out. At least half of the movie is people crawling on the ground or trying (and failing) to shoot somebody.
The acting, the soundtrack, the cinematography, the lighting, are all well above average… but I will say the same thing that I said about Moonlight and about The VVitch: You. Cannot. Compensate. Bad. Story-Telling. With. Great. Movie-Making. Skills.
Many of you will fawn over this movie because it scratches that indie-movie itch that you have, and I agree, this movie is certainly fun in that sort of sense, but after I got out of the movie, I was already forgetting the paper-thin plot and completely forgettable characters.
When I got out of this movie, I was trying to figure out whether I was gonna give it a 5 or 6. I finally made my decision by asking this question: would I ever want to see it again?
And after thinking about it, the only thing that was keeping my attention in this movie was the fact that I was interested to see who would make it and who would die. Now that I know, I can’t say there would be anything in this film that would merit a second viewing.
The dialogue is occasionally witty and funny, but it’s never to a point where I was enthralled by what was being said.
The camerawork was really pleasant, but there was never a point where I was fascinated by the work being done.
The acting is consistently good, but there’s no character that stands out as admirable, dynamic, or memorable. Murphy’s, Larson’s, and Copley’s performances are ones that are akin to other movies they’ve been in. None of them are transformative or unique.
If you’re an indie film lover, this will likely be worth at least one viewing for you, but even then, I doubt you will remember this movie after a month. Me, I doubt I will remember Free Fire for half that amount of time.