Jeff York reviews “Free Fire” and “The Love Witch” together on The Establishing Shot



Maybe my expectations were too high. I’d seen the trailer for FREE FIRE months ago and it peaked my curiosity. After all, I’m a sucker for crime capers, it stars Brie Larson and she’s one of my favorite actresses, and director Ben Wheatley greatly impressed me with his 2015 psychological thriller HIGH-RISE. So why did I like this new film that just opened today, but not love it?

Sometimes expectations can confound a filmgoer. I’ve been led astray many times before by word-of-mouth, publicity materials, or even celebrity interviews that seemed to paint a picture of one thing when the film is very much another. That’s not the case here. What happened here is simply that the film didn’t quite live up to its potential. It is very good, but it should’ve been great.


I’d heard great things about THE LOVE WITCH but had missed its theatrical release last autumn. Many of my colleagues at the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle loved it so much that it figured in our year-end awards of 2016. So, with that kind of build-up, I was anxious to finally catch up with it when it became on VOD a week or so ago. I’m happy to say I was indeed impressed, though I found it to be another film that gets in its own way.

FREE FIRE eclipsed its fascinating characters by relegating them to become mostly just a line-up of casualties after the gun play begins. THE LOVE WITCH script, written by Anna Biller, is a timely tale with a strong feminist slant on gender politics and the sexuality of a strong woman, but director Anna Biller gets in the way with her stylized retro ways.


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