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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…


Sing Street – ★ ★ ★ ★ DVD Review

Sing Street4.0 Stars

In order to get somewhat caught up, my reviews are becoming more “short and sweet” than I would like, but I think it’s the only way I’ll get them done these days.

Set in Ireland in the 1980s, Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) is having a difficult time, his parents are divorcing, he’s trying to fit in at a new Catholic high school, and he has to deal with bullies.  On top of this, he sees the girl of his dreams (Raphina played by Lucy Boynton) standing across the street from the school, and one day he works up enough nerve to talk to her.  Raphina tells Conor that she’s a model, which is just fine because Conor’s band is looking for a model to be in their new music video.  A perfect match right?  Except that Conor doesn’t have a band….  But the allure and the refuge of music is universal.  Conor makes friends as he recruits members for the band and even turns some of his bullying enemies to his side as roadies and bouncers, but the tougher task is to get the girl.

The look and feel of Sing Street was very authentic to me.  It really felt like we were in the 80s.  I was never a big fan of 80s music, I tend to listen to 60s and 70s myself, but I could still appreciate how good and how fitting the music was.  The music was great, and not just the covers but the original songs for the film too.  I was pleasantly surprised that even the smaller characters of Sing Street were well developed.  Conor’s older brother Brendan (Jack Reynor) could easily have been seen as a “throwaway” character but he was handled well and as such was an important character in Conor’s growth.  The members of the band were an eclectic mix of characters too, and again helped elevate everything because they as well were developed properly.  Overall the film was a fairly typical coming of age story.  Yes, it was touching and funny but what really sets it apart is the music, and the surprising realism of the situations.

Sing Street was written and directed by John Carney who also wrote and directed Once and Begin Again.  I’ve been meaning to watch Once for a while now, and now I think I have extra motivation.

Bottom Line: A great mix of nostalgia and heart made Sing Street a winner for me.

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