Free Fire Blu-ray Review

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Free Fired Up

Free Fire has no aspirations other than being pulpy cinema garbage. It’s foul and it’s crude as are every one of its characters. This world, contained to a single abandoned warehouse in the late ‘70s, lacks any empathy. For nearly all 90-minutes, Free Fire concerns people pointing guns at one another and firing. To say Free Fire is one dimensional would insult that one dimension.

And yet, the script from the husband/wife team of Ben Wheatley and Amy Jump scorches with vicious, crass humor. Manic sarcasm bleeds from everyone’s mouth, serenaded by John Denver escaping the fragility of an 8-track deck. What begins with a masterful bit of ambient tension – a gun deal destined to go wrong – quickly turns to an isolated gunfight between a dozen or so divergent personalities with nearly limitless ammunition. In short time, each key player is wryly drawn and the inevitable personal conflicts become visible.

That’s it. Because of an unseen incident the previous night, tempers flare, guns get drawn, and Free Fire turns into a shoot-out. In cinema terms, it’s typical a five-minute action scene before the plot moves on. Here, it’s 70-minutes of gunplay. The entire pitch of Free Fire is an extension of cliché, shot with bland lighting in ugly circumstances. Strangely, it’s a masterpiece of irreverent filmmaking.

They blare vulgarity like an eight year-old just given free reign and a megaphone

Every character takes a bullet. Some get it worse. One has a piece of their brain blown out. Another ends up in flames. The poorest of the crew meets their fate under the wheel of a van – face first. It’s explicit, even if the editing cuts away a split-second before an audience member with weaker constitution could snap their heads back in disgust. In another existence, this is Tarantino’s work, just with his dialog cut in half, and the character arcs fading alongside.

Not a single person learns anything throughout Free Fire, although the story concerns a lust for money and what it does to people. One of the characters spends the movie tripping on heroin. Another laughs when jabbing a bullet into one of their partners by accident. It has no hero nor is it adaptable to starring one. Each role develops into a despicable, callous person, yet they’re entertainingly despicable.

They trade quips or acknowledge the absurdity of the situation. They blare vulgarity like an eight year-old just given free reign and a megaphone. Ben Wheatley cuts his film down to essentials, delivering something with outlandishly fast pacing and absolute awareness of itself. It’s also positive there’s something special here. Free Fire is executed with a level of skill well above its pedigree. It’s pure guilty glee.

Video

Strong color grading drapes most of Free Fire is blues and oranges. Sometimes, the oranges fade to deliver a more dusty, earthen hue. Either way, the palette is consistent, heavy on altering the images to imply a vintage look from the digital cinematography.

Detail wavers. Later in the film, with characters coated in sweat, dirt, and blood, fidelity naturally shows. Given the number of close-ups throughout, detail generally stays firm. Medium shots lack a hearty resolution. Sharpness retains a natural quality though.

Dealing with numerous shadows, the disc’s challenge is to keep detail flowing. Surprisingly it does. Up until the third act when hard shadows come into play, density and detail both stay in view. The intended aged/faded look can sap some of the dimensionality if not to any fault. Lionsgate’s work preserves clean digital imagery.

Audio

Like Free Fire itself, the wildly exaggerated audio mix fits perfectly. The number of bullets panning through the soundfield must be some form of record. Each shot dings off a surface, flies around, ricochets, and maybe eventually hits a target. Air rushing around the bullets travels between speakers, panning into stereos or rears as needed in this DTS-HD track.

This isn’t a track shy about moving voices around either. The staging is set by the sound design. Everyone separates, meaning their conversations or shouts of pain take a seat into a proper channel depending on camera location.

Nice LFE punch adds to the fun. An explosion adds some additional weight, even if this end of the mix feels slightly reserved.

Extras

Writer/Director Ben Wheatley joins stars Cillian Murphy and Jack Reynor for a commentary. This is followed by a well done making of, running 16-minutes.

The 15 unaltered images below represent the Blu-ray. For an additional five Free Fire screenshots, early access to all screens (plus the 6,000+ already in our library), exclusive UHD reviews, and more, support us on Patreon.