Two groups of unscrupulous characters convene in an abandoned factory for an arms deal. What could possibly go wrong? A lot, and in Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire it does. Entertainingly so. The ‘70s styles are broad, the gunfire is loud, and the quips are sharp. The consequences for immoral operations are also gruesomely real, and the subtext underneath the reckless abandon communicates the futility of living by the gun (deal).
Maybe there needs to be some promises made before filming well-intentioned dramatizations of historic atrocities. Like not filling the screenplay with a string of significant events containing the depth of Wikipedia bullet points. Or not using characters as empty ciphers purely to get from one development to the next. These, and several other, formulaic devices have turned sweeping silver screen epics into “very special” basic cable movies of the week.
The questionable logic of the Fast and Furious franchise has been imbued with a silliness, intentional or not, that’s made the movies at least somewhat endearing. When there’s fun with the ridiculousness, like in Fast Five, the formula works like gangbusters. When there’s a lack of good humor and too much earnestness in the warbling about familial bonds, like in Fast & Furious, the series stalls.
Queen of the Desert is a biopic that includes a serious line of dialogue incorporating the film’s title, in reference to its central subject, who then turns slowly to the camera with a somber look. This occurs just before the pre-credits wrap-up text gives us the CliffsNotes version of the rest of her life. Inanity rules this wasteland.
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