Free Fire is less an action movie than an exercise in how to army crawl. For nearly 85 grueling minutes, criminal cockroaches played by the likes of Jack Reynor, Sam Riley and Brie Larson slither across broken glass and concrete trying to survive Ben Wheatley’s single-setting shoot out. The fracas stems from some petty squabbling between bit players that ruins a firearms transaction between an IRA henchman (Cilian Murphy) and Boston gangster (Sharlto Copley).
The dilapidated factory floor that doubles as battlefield provides just enough tangible cover to avoid instant death, but every character gets winged in some way. Those wounds eventually take their toll, and Free Fire evolves into a collective bloodletting for jive-talking sinners already damned to hell. Shit talking intensifies with every bullet fired, and Wheatley purposefully blurs the lines between loyalties and motives, a half-assed stab at substance in a story that seems willfully too content to be stupid.
Armie Hammer’s suave middleman takes the chaos in stride, equating his best chance at survival with low-key sarcastic barbs and emotionless professionalism. Watching him get more and more irritated by the witless actions of his peers is one of the film’s few pleasures. Otherwise, Free Fire is a rote slog that trivializes raging gunplay and murder for a few darkly comic laughs.
Wheatley has long prided himself as a filmmaker who defies conventions with a malcontent’s spirit. But his work always possesses rampant peacocking that undermines whatever tonal deviations might distinguish it from standard genre fare. Contained and stripped down, Free Fire feels like the purest incarnation of the filmmaker’s raging ego.
Even more troubling is the tacked on feminist ending, which reinforces the film’s “flexible outlook” toward violence that Hammer’s character promotes right before the first round is discharged. By that point not even a sunny John Denver ditty can make things right.
Born in China: Narrated by John Krasinski, this documentary ventures into the wilderness of China to capture the intimate moments of a baby panda bear and its mother.
Free Fire: IRA henchman and Boston gangsters are caught up in a factory shoot out when their firearms sale goes south.
Graduation: Romanian director Cristian Mungiu film explores how a single violent act reverberates throughout the lives of each member in a middle class family.
In Search of Israeli Cuisine: A documentary portrait of Israeli culture told through the role of food and cooking.
Mr. Gaga: Footage of intimate rehearsals and breathtaking dance sequences highlight the life and career of Ohad Naharin, choreographer and artistic director of the Batsheva Dance Company. Opens on Friday, April 21, at Digital Gym Cinemas in North Park.
Norman: The Moderate Rise and the Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer: Richard Gere stars as the titular operator whose life becomes complicated after he befriends a small time politician that later becomes famous.
The Lost City of Z: James Gray’s epic film is based on the true story of Percival Fawcett, a British explorer who disappeared in the 1920s while searching for a mysterious lost Amazonian city.
The Promise: Christian Bale and Oscar Isaac star in this historical drama set during the last days of the Ottoman Empire where members of a love triangle are torn apart by war and atrocity.
Seventh Annual Spring Showcase: San Diego Asian Film Festival presents 20 films from 10 countries over the course of eight days. Screenings begin on Thursday, April 20 with Poi E: A Story of Our Song and run through Thursday, April 27, at Ultrastar Mission Valley Cinemas at Hazard Center.
Truman: Two childhood friends reunite in Madrid and realize they don’t really know each other at all. Stars Ricardo Darin. Opens on Friday, April 21, at Digital Gym Cinemas in North Park.
Unforgettable: Katherine Heigl does her best Glenn Close impression in this thriller about a disgruntled woman who begins to stalk her ex-husband’s new flame.
One Time Only
Dazed and Confused: Richard Linklater’s 1993 masterpiece follows one day in the life of Texas high school students about the experience their last summer before adulthood looms. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 19, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.
Lion: After accidentally being separating from his family, a young Indian boy is adopted by an Australian family. Later in life, he uses Google maps to locate his hometown. Screens at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, April 21 and 22, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
Boned: A struggling actress has to save a Maltese puppy from Goth thugs, a dominatrix, and a lying doctor. Screens at 9:30 p.m. Saturday, April 22, at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
The Fog: In John Carpenter’s horror film, strange things begin to occur as a tiny California coastal town prepares to commemorate its centenary. Screens at 1 p.m. Sunday, April 23, at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Interstellar: Christopher Nolan’s ambitious Sci-Fi is about a group of explorers who travel through a wormhole to save humanity. Screens at 7 p.m. Sunday, April 23, at Arclight La Jolla Cinemas.
Children of Men: Set in a future where infertility runs rampant, Alfonso Cuarón’s action drama follows an alcoholic bureaucrat who tries to help the world’s only pregnant woman avoid danger. Screens at 7 p.m. Monday, April 24, at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Office Space: Hating your job has never been this much fun. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 26, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.