Is there a reason Oscar Winner™ Brie Larson’s eyes open 25 percent more than everyone else’s? All her characters wander in a state of semi-astonishment, infusing each performance with a wide-eyed affectation.
Larson’s caffeinated eyelids stand out even more in Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire, a solid mashup of Reservoir Dogs and The Hunger Games. The set-up here is genius. Two groups of Tarantino-lite criminals (including Armie Hammer, Cillian Murphy, Sharlto Copley, and a handful of other Caucasian characters actors) meet in an abandoned warehouse to exchange a large quantity of guns. A volatile dispute erupts, catapulting the motley crew of retro-dressed thugs into a 90-minute gunfight that crescendos in fantastic eruptions of fire and steel and blood.
Maybe Larson’s constant bewilderment is due to the fact that she’s the lone female in an otherwise stellar cast which could certainly use more women and unwhite men. My weed gets delivered by a wide assortment of people—a Venezuelan teenager, an Orthodox Jewish hipster, a tattooed white girl, a seven-foot tall black guy named Spartacus I. (“Spelled backwards,” he explained to me, “it’s ‘I suck at raps.’) Point is: Criminal organizations skew diverse.
Before the showing, my Orthodox Jewish friend arrived with some Sour Diesel. A rare sativa that smokes like an indica, an afternoon puff of this overpoweringly skunky classic turned my walls kaleidoscopic. Immediately after imbibing, I had to lay down. There, I wrote profound realizations about the direction my life was taking. Sour Diesel will Tony Robbins the shit out of your psyche.
I rarely watch movies in the company of other critics, but this week I had gotten a pass to attend Free Fire in a tiny screening room off Park Avenue. Entering with an aroma of weed smoke trailing me like Pig Pen’s dust cloud, I immediately felt all the critics turn to look at me, as if somewhere a Western piano stopped playing. I hunkered into my seat. The critic next to me visibly recoiled at my Diesel-infused clothing.
Free Fire is not a movie to be watched with the overly analytical. I began to imagine the other critics as Skeksis – calcified intelligences so concerned with the archaic group dynamic that they fear voicing their own wicked desires, lest they be cut down. I was the only one in the audience laughing audibly at the gallows humor of Free Fire – men getting shot in the face, their heads crushed under the tires of vans, brains pouring out of their still-alive skulls.
Free Fire is a CGI-free throwback to 90s pulp thrillers, where concept and style eclipses budget and marketing. An antidote to last week’s The Fate of the Furious, the movie is best watched high in the company of someone who would laugh at Marvin’s demise in Pulp Fiction. Squares stay home.