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Free Fire – ★ ★ ★ ½ DVD Review

Free Fire35

Usually the climax of an action film is the shootout, in Free Fire, the entire movie was the shootout!  In 1970s Boston, two sets of criminals arrange a gun deal, but one of the henchmen (Harry) recognizes one of the other henchmen (Stevo) from a bar fight the night before because the latter assaulted the former’s cousin.  Bernie (Enzo Cilenti), Stevo (Sam Riley), Frank (Michael Smiley), Justine (Brie Larson), Chris (Cillian Murphy) are the buyers and Ord (Armie Hammer), Vernon (Sharlto Copley), Martin (Babou Ceesay), Gordon (Noah Taylor), Harry (Jack Reynor) are the sellers.  Just when things are almost settled between the two sides someone pulls a gun and shoots someone.  Though they are initially split by geography and loose loyalties, it soon becomes a deadly game of “everyone for themselves” as everyone grabs a weapon.

Set entirely in one place (an abandoned factory/warehouse) the story is a bit claustrophobic, but I think it was saved by the characters and the cleverness of the dialogue.  While the action was completely over the top, I found it to actually be fairly realistic.  Even though they seemed to have an endless supply of bullets, our bad guys (because they are all terrible people who you can’t really root for)  do have to stop and reload.  Every one of them got shot at some point: a bullet in the arm, a shot in the leg, one man gets grazed in the head exposing his brain; and while it may be gruesome, the violence wasn’t glorified.   I also appreciated that the bad guys were not really good shots, it’s difficult to shoot and hit your target especially when you’re a target yourself, and have been hit yourself as well.

Sharlto Copley (District 9, Elysium) pretty much stole the show, but Michael Smiley (Luther) came really close too.  I loved the dialogue he had with Armie Hammer, almost as much as I loved the back and forths between Copley and Brie Larson.  There wasn’t really a whole lot of a message or purpose or complexity to the movie which is fine, it was pretty much just a black comedy thriller about two groups of trigger happy criminals trying to survive by killing the other guys.  It was fun, and that’s all it needed to be.  I think it’s safe to say this film was a bit of an experiment, so the runtime of 91 minutes was perfect.  I don’t think the film would have worked if it was any longer.

Bottom Line: It’s a good thing there’s no honour among thieves, because if the gun deal went down smoothly, Free Fire would have been an awfully short film…


Man From UNCLE (2015) – ★ ★ ★ ★ DVD Review

Man From UNCLE (2015)4.0 Stars

Based on the 1960s television series of the same name, comes Guy Ritchie’s film The Man From U.N.C.L.E.  I have never seen the show, but was intrigued by the trailer.  Guy Ritchie of course has risen to fame based on his stylish filmmaking, but of his films I’ve only seen Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and the Robert Downey Jr Sherlock Holmes films.  I keep meaning to watch Snatch and RockNRolla, but for some reason I haven’t gotten around to either of them.  I think it took me fifteen years to see Lock, Stock… so hey, I’m still on schedule.

All I really knew about UNCLE was that it was about two spies, one American and one Soviet (it is set in the ’60s so it was still the USSR remember), other than that, the trailer was what hooked me on the film.  Actually it wasn’t the trailer, it was (possibly Comic-con or IMDb released) footage of the first car chase that I saw.  Yeah, it was a fun chase so I wanted to give the rest of the film a try too.  So the first of our two spies sees Henry Cavill as Napoleon Solo, an American agent who at the close of WWII began to steal art treasures for his own personal gain.  As a plea bargain to cut short his prison sentence he was forced into the CIA where he became one of their top agents.  The second spy is Armie Hammer as Illya Kuryakin, a top KGB agent, who has worked his way up the ranks to atone for the crimes of his father and avoid the shame he has brought to his family.  We’re introduced to both as Solo helps an East German asset (Alicia Vikander) across the Berlin Wall in that car chase I mentioned.  Starting as enemies, the two are brought together and put on the same team as they must help find the girl’s father who has been kidnapped and forced to work on a nuclear weapon for some remaining Nazis.   Thrills and chases, witticisms and fights abound as the odd couple good guys try to get along in order to save the world.

Was it a good movie?  I went in originally thinking it wouldn’t be good, but that UNCLE would still be entertaining.  Fortunately I was wrong on the first point, and it was a pretty good movie.  The story may not have presented many challenges to the viewer, but it certainly did entertain.  I have no idea if Cavill and Hammer played the characters as their television predecessors Robert Vaughn and David McCallum did some fifty years ago, but I am now interested in seeing some of the original show and hopeful that more UNCLE movies will be made.  We could use a nice light hearted spy franchise on the screens for several years to come.

The performances all around were good, including Alicia Vikander, who was the robot lead in Ex Machina, and seems to be in the middle of a very big year for her career.  The 1960s look really worked well with Ritchie’s style.  I thought that his Holmes films looked a little too fake, too green screened and too stylish, but that same method this time makes everything look brilliantly and authentically sixties. If you’re looking for an exciting little action romp to pass the night, check The Man From U.N.C.L.E. out.

Bottom Line: Hey look!  I finally did a movie review again!  Maybe I can do some more…

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