Free Fire ★★½

This is sure to prompt endless comparisons to Tarantino from those who don’t understand that QT’s primary suspense driver is his dialogue and not his willingness to portray violence. Free Fire is definitely more bang bang than blah blah, which isn’t inherently bad, but it does mean that this 80-odd minute sustained shoot out rarely amounts to anything more meaningful than a Monty Python sketch. The litmus test for most will probably be Sharlto Copley’s cartoonish, buffoonish performance, which is a love/hate proposition if there ever was one (I chose the latter).

A larger problem than a wobbly tone that never quite makes the slapstick sing, though, is that the film, which almost entirely takes place in one location during one action sequence, provides a showcase for director Ben Wheatley’s shortcomings. Time and again, in a film with countless gunshots, he frames shooters head-on, favoring his actors’ faces to spatial awareness or blocking that might offer subtextual commentary on the characters’ relations. This tendency toward isolation turns the editorial structure into a series of rapid-fire bangs, when something at more of a reserve would likely have been more illuminating or exciting. The result is a quick case of diminishing returns, and while the film never grows boring, it does grow repetitive.

Among the large cast, Sam Riley fares best, but no one can really do much with a script that tries harder to be quotable than relatable.