Arguably, the most profound export, when it comes to British directors within the last decade has got to be, Ben Wheatley. Effortlessly straddling the horror, thriller and drama genre's, he has now established himself as a man of action with latest project, Freefire.
Set in 1970's Boston, an arms deal goes array between the Irish; Chris (Cillian Murphy) & Frank (Michael Smiley) and South African vagabond, Vernon (Sharlto Copley). All the while being chaperoned by a middle man & woman; Ord (Armie Hammer) and Justine (Brie Larson). Things are running smoothly until, a grudge battle with two rival henchmen comes to a fevered pitch. A shootout begins and a frantic game of survival ensues.
Wheatley's narrative is impressive. Managing to juggle the plot lines of ten major characters, split into four different factions whilst maintaining a efficiently fluid pace. The audience already feel both invested and informed as to where they perceive characters loyalties will lie. It would be remiss not to acknowledge it's similarities to Tarantino's, 'Reservoir Dogs' with its singular warehouse location, never ending stream of bullets and the ease at which it could transition from screen to stage.
The film begins with a focus on a disheveled couple of goons, Stevo (Sam Riley) and Bernie (Enzo Ciltenti). It becomes apparent that Stevo has been involved in a fight the night before, sporting several bruises and crippled in pain which he dulls with narcotics. They are under the employ of Chris and Frank as 'weak' muscle, in order to make a quick buck. Despite, the obvious fact they are Republic terrorists, if they were in the proverbial pool of the criminal underworld, they would be paddling in the shadows.
In contrast with Larson's character, her companion, Ord - a sharply dressed, bearded hunk of a man with a penchant for smoking weed in order to maintain his laid back demeanor. The ultimate paradox is arms dealer, Vernon. A narcissistic and chauvinist degenerate, packaged in a bespoke Saville Row suit, who makes cringe worthy advances towards Justine. Despite a dominant presence, he doesn't detract from the other characters. After a turbulent exchange, everything is seemingly resolved until an old grudge is reignited like a flame to touch paper. The shootout begins and everyone is a casualty, nursing wounds in their arms, legs and even head.
After a fast paced hour of exchanged gunfire, undulating in narrative pace - carefully crafted by Wheatley and his co-writer, Amy Jump. The story reaches a gradual crescendo, arguably not as seemingly uncertain and bleak as some of his other films like High Rise.
Whilst, this is ultimately a 'shoot em up', Wheatley has meticulously crafted the story so that at points, the character's pause for thought - looking for a potential escape hatch or ejector seat button. Also, instead of bullet wounds being nonchalantly shrugged off, it's recipients are crippled with pain. Most are rendered to a prone like crawling state. A realistic shoot out, which is somehow, more satisfactory to watch - as sadistic as it sounds.
Wheatley for me, never fails to disappoint. Although, stellar casting and innovative storytelling certainly serve to strengthen the films positive resolve. Packed like a gun magazine with punchy and hilarious dialogue.