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Film / Free Fire

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"Fuck the small talk, let's buy some guns, eh?"

Free Fire is a 2017 British action-comedy directed by Ben Wheatley, starring Cillian Murphy, Armie Hammer, Brie Larson, Sharlto Copley and others. The screenplay is by Wheatley and Amy Jump.

Set in 1976, the film follows an arms deal between IRA members Chris and Frank with arms dealer Vernon, along with middlemen Justine and Ord, and both parties' respective muscle. When the henchmen turn out to have an outstanding dispute, the deal dissolves into a running, inept gunfight.


This film provides examples of:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: Vernon, to Justine.
  • Amusing Injuries: Maybe not where they're injured, but the characters' reactions to getting shot are pretty humorous. That and the sheer number of times some of them end up getting shot and just keep going is darkly funny.
  • Always Save the Girl: Chris's default setting, particularly for Justine.
  • Affably Evil: Ord and Chris, one of whom is an arms dealer, and the other of whom is a terrorist. Despite this, they are the most professional, sane, and moral individuals in the whole film. This is why they're the last to die.
  • Almost Dead Guy:
    • Stevo spends the second half of the film drifting in and out of consciousness.
    • Justine appears to expire after losing her tourniquet, but then pops back up to kill Ord and ends up the only survivor.
  • Anyone Can Die: As soon as shots start firing, it's not long before people start dying. By the end of the movie, Justine is the only survivor.
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  • Asshole Victim: Almost everybody who dies. Special mention goes to Gordon for sadistically trying to murder Justine, Martin for setting up the double-cross, Vernon for shooting Justine in the back and in general being a terrible boss, Stevo for sexually assaulting Harry's cousin and then taunting him over it, and Harry for starting the whole fucking shootout over an argument with Stevo. Only Chris, Frank, and maybe Ord fully avert this.
  • Avenging the Villain: Depending on your idea of who is the villain here, it happens a lot.
    • Justine becomes a living example. Though she is not dead at the end of the film, she has sustained brutal injuries, and even if she lives through them, the police are right outside the warehouse.
  • Badass Beard: Ord and Frank have impressive ones.
  • Bad Boss: Vernon, to a tee. It's why Martin joined Justine to rob the deal.
  • Ballistic Discount: When Chris grabs one of the assault rifles to test and loads it with live ammunition, Ord pulls out his sidearm and informs the group as a precaution in case Chris tries to pull this.
  • The Big Guy: Leary who at one point throws Harry over the van.
  • Black and Nerdy: Martin.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Played with; Martin appears to be one of the first killed, but later turns out to have just been unconscious. Then he dies from the wound anyway, but only after Bernie and the snipers are dead.
    • However, the sniper who dies first is black.
  • Black Comedy: More or less what the movie runs on, from the beginning to the end.

  • Book-Ends: The firefight proper begins and ends with somebody standing next to Chris getting shot, only the second time around Chris is fatally hit by the final round fired.
  • Boom, Headshot!: How Martin, Howie, Vernon, and Ord all meet their demise. It just takes a bit of time to get Martin.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Everyone fires way more bullets than they should have in their pistols and revolvers, though people are occasionally shown reloading or running out of ammo. Stevo seems to have an infinite supply of magazines.
  • Briefcase Full of Money: Full of tens. Getting the money is one of the reasons why the various crooks are reluctant to just run for it.
  • Brick Joke: The factory used to make umbrellas. It starts to rain in the end.
  • Catch-Phrase: Vernon likes to boast about his business savvy with the phrase "Watch and Vern."
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • A few gas canisters are knocked loose, and naturally get ignited several minutes later.
    • A crowbar used to open up the crates of guns keeps getting used.
    • The most seemingly obvious case is averted: the MacGuffin assault rifles are rendered useless because the ammunition is locked in the van, and nobody ever manages to get it unlocked.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Harry
  • Closed Circle:
    • Likely the major reason for the '70s setting, as there are no cell phones to call for backup. Everyone thus puts a lot of effort to getting to the warehouse's phone.
    • Leary, Chris and Frank's cohort, shows up and does enter the building, but just to check on the late Irishmen. As soon as he enters, the door slams shut, locking him in.
  • Combat Breakdown:
    • Few of the characters are very skilled in the first place, and the fight gets even more sloppy when several of them get hit in the arm or leg.
    • This most specifically affects Ord, who goes from the most physically capable and dangerous to limping.
  • Concealment Equals Cover: Defied; Ord points out that wooden crates are useless at stopping bullets, as he starts stacking up sandbags. Several people get hit through cover.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Stevo's head gets slowly crushed underneath the van Harry drives over him. At the same time, Harry goes Shot in the Ass and the bullet exits his brain; we even here his brief yelp of agony before his death.
  • The Dandy: Vern is very proud of his suit.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Chris and Ord excel at it.
  • Downer Ending: Everyone except Justine is dead, and Justine herself is significantly injured. Plus, it's heavily implied she's about to be arrested, considering the police are just outside the warehouse.
  • Dumbass Has a Point: Stevo and Bernie try to point out the difficulty it would take to move the gun crates up the winding, long path they took to the warehouse.
    • Vernon is...well...Vernon, but when Stevo and Harry start fighting, he's one of the first to try to figure out what's going on, and tries to defuse the situation, calling out Martin's suggestion that Harry attack him again.
  • The Determinator: Most of the cast qualifies, since everyone gets shot repeatedly and keeps moving, but Chris and Martin deserve special recognition.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Everyone has one.
    • Frank is introduced antsy and anxious, while Chris is relaxed and chatting with Justine, establishing their dynamic.
    • Stevo is hungover and complaining, setting up his Miles Gloriosus persona. Bernie meanwhile shows his stupidity by offering smack as a hangover solution.
    • Ord is jovial and chipper when he meets the Irish.
    • Harry keeps talking about "his moment" and self-advancement, while a bored Gordon shoots him down.
    • Subverted by Justine. She's introduced stating that she wants everyone to walk away happy from the deal. She plays the impartial mediator throughout the film, but turns out to be one of the traitors who planned an ambush on the deal.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • Everyone is disgusted to learn what Stevo did to Harry's cousin.
    • Justine is repeatedly assured early in the fight that none of the others will shoot a woman. Then she's hit by accident and starts shooting back, making it a moot point.
    • Even after Harry keeps betraying them and trying to kill him specifically, Ord expresses sympathy for Harry suffering the indignity of being Shot In The Ass.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: The film basically runs in real time, covering 90 minutes.
  • Foreshadowing: A lot, particularly for Justine being behind the ambush. In the beginning, Justine talks about being in it solely for herself. When he gets his second wind, Martin immediately starts shouting for Justine.
  • Friendly Enemy:
    • Ord considers himself this to Frank. Frank can't stand him. Ord even expresses concern when he learns that Frank's a recovering alcoholic, and he goes so far as to stop insulting Frank after finding out.
    • Ord and Howie clearly are on good terms, and Howie is willing to reveal who hired them because he respects Ord.
  • From Camouflage to Criminal: Ord is implied to be former military who likely fought in the Vietnam War, with his superior combat skills and casual attitude.
  • Funny Background Event: While Ord is lighting up his first joint, Vernon and Gordon can be heard talking in the background.
    Vernon: If you go for the case, I'll give you my Rolex!
    Gordon: Your Rolex is a fake, Vernon.
  • Gambit Pileup: Only one gambit at the start, but by halfway through the movie Chris, Frank, and Ord are the only ones who actually want the deal to go through.
  • Hidden Depths: Stevo turns out to be more loyal and caring than he's set up to be, while Harry turns out to be much more of a Jerkass.
    • Justine and Martin too. They come off as two of the more sympathetic people, but by the end of the movie it's revealed that they were planning to kill everyone else and steal the money. In fact, Justine successfully kills everyone else, only to be arrested.
  • His Name Is...: Howard is about to reveal who hired the snipers, but Frank kills him before he can.
  • Hypercompetent Sidekick: Ord's more of a middleman and hired contractor for Vernon, but it applies. He even has to give pointers to Vernon on how to shoot.
  • Instant Death Bullet: Averted for the most part, unless it's a Boom, Headshot! (and even then that doesn't get Martin). People get shot to hell and keep going. Bernie takes one square in the back and keeps going for about three seconds. Frank, already heavily injured, is shot in the chest and dies.
  • Irony: Despite being at an arms deal for assault rifles, the 30 AR-70s are essentially useless in the shootout because Vernon locked the bullets in the van.
  • It's All About Me: Vernon, big time. See Bad Boss above. Also, to a lesser extent, Harry. Averted with Stevo, who remains utterly faithful to Chris and Frank throughout; see Hidden Depths above.
  • Jerkass: Harry.
  • Just a Flesh Wound: Played with and subverted. Everyone who gets shot in a limb pretty much has that body part immobilized. Stevo takes a bullet straight to the shoulder, and yet seems able to function though.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: Ord gets shot by Justine just as he is about to tell his "John Denver story" to Chris.
  • Kill ’Em All: Cast has 13 members. 12 die.
  • Large Ham: Vernon, so much so. Stevo slips into this when high. Ord occasionally gets into it.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Ord remarks at one point that they have about and hour and a half before they have to worry about blood loss, and even calls it "The Golden Hour-and-a-Half". Sure enough, the movie runs almost exactly 90 minutes.
  • Major Injury Underreaction: People repeatedly react to being shot with annoyance and offense rather than horror or fear.
  • Man on Fire: Happens to Vernon. We see the end results, it's not pretty.
  • Men Are the Expendable Gender: A particularly ridiculous version: There's exactly one woman among approximately a dozen men, how many of them do you think survive the movie? None of them. The woman survives.
  • Mexican Standoff: At first, it appears to be one group against another, barring a few internal squabbles; until it's revealed that there are snipers who aren't aligned with either.
  • Miles Gloriosus:
    • As Justine puts it, Vernon was misdiagnosed as a child genius and he never got over it. While he's projecting a persona of a tough arms dealer that saw everything, he barely can handle the deal itself (Martin is implied to be the real mastermind and Vernon being just a frontman) and when things go south, has to be coached on how to aim a pistol.
    • Despite being loud, dim-witted (if not outright Too Dumb to Live) low life, Stevo's very first establishing moment is him musing about taking revenge for the beating he took and how great he is in every single regard.
  • Minor Injury Overreaction: Vernon when he gets grazed. Earlier, Gordon and the splinter.
  • McGuffin: The briefcase full of money.
  • More Dakka: The AR-70s, even if they're not what Chris and Frank ordered, provide this. Subverted since most of the ammo is locked in the van and the guns run dry fast.
  • More Deadly Than the Male: Justine has the single highest bodycount in the movie (Howie, Gordon, Ord and Chris) and plotted from the start to kill everyone and take the money.
  • Mutual Kill: Stevo and Harry.
  • Neutral Female: Invoked, exploited and generally played with. Most of the shooters are willing to give Justine a pass (although a couple are suspicious about her loyalties); she's willing to let them.
  • Noodle Incident: Whatever happened to Martin while in the Panthers that made him leave.
    • Ord: "I got a John Denver story for you...."
  • Not So Above It All: Justine spends the start of the gunfight urging everyone to calm down. When Harry accidentally shoots her, she pulls out a gun and fires right back.
  • Odd Couple: Martin, the former Black Panther, and Vernon, the apartheid-era South African who calls Martin "the boy."
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Everyone's reaction when the first shot is fired.
    • The final image when Justine limps out as the only survivor, only for the cops to show up.
    • Chris when he sees the rampaging Martin standing over him with a rifle.
    • Gordon, when he runs out of ammo and finds himself facing an armed Justine, who he'd just been trying to murder.
  • The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: Stevo and Harry have this dynamic. As do Frank and Ord.
  • Only Sane Man: Ord, who not only actually knows how to fight, but is the one person trying to figure out who hired the third party of snipers.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Once Martin gets his second wind, he drops his Black and Nerdy attitude for Scary Black Man, showing how unstable he is from his wound.
  • Pet the Dog: Stevo is set up as an idiot, violent guy who attacked Harry's cousin when she wouldn't sleep with him. He turns out to be loyal to Chris and Frank and weeps heavily at Bernie's death.
  • Police are Useless: The cast spends a solid hour exchanging gunfire in a single location without any apparent interest from the cops. Toward the end of the film, Ord guesses that the cops are still about 15 minutes away. However, it's subverted by their sudden arrival at the very end of the film, just in time to catch the only survivor.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Vernon is from apartheid-era South Africa and it shows.
  • Pretty Little Headshots: Averted. Howie gets the most trope-like, but that's the exit wound. Vern gets a chunk of his nose blown off, and Ord has a large exit wound.
  • Reality Ensues:
    • Guns are not point-and-click instruments with easy accuracy. Even trained soldiers and hardened criminals (which is what more than a few of the cast are implied to be) can only manage average accuracy under the stress of combat. Handguns in particular are not designed for firing across a warehouse, and far more shots miss than hit.
    • People getting shot end up writhing in pain, crawling around, etc. Martin getting shot in the head puts him out of commission for most of the movie.
    • The Odd Couple dynamic of Vernon and Martin plays out exactly as you'd expect. See Bad Boss above.
  • Real Time: Aside from a brief segment being done in slow motion, the movie's events unfold in real time.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Harry is the red to Gordon's blue. Ord is the blue to Vernon's red.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: Vernon was absolutely right to assume Justine wants to double-cross him and steal the money, despite his assumption being more based on paranoia and chaotic course of the gunfight rather than solid proof or deduction.
  • Running Gag:
    • Stevo's belief that Vernon is Austrian.
    • The supposed fact that everyone has 90 minutes to live after being shot before bleeding out.
  • Ship Tease: Chris and Justine.
  • Shot in the Ass: What finally kills Harry, courtesy of Stevo in a Mutual Kill.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: The ending, big time. It looks like the two most likable characters have survived and are going to split the cash and leave; then they both get shot dead, out of nowhere, by Justine, who takes the cash and then promptly gets arrested.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: As Justine says, Vernon was misdiagnosed as a child genius and never got over it.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Justine is the only on-screen female character, in a cast of 13 people.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: John Denver's "Annie's Song" plays over the fight's final few minutes, courtesy of Gordon's 8 track.
  • Squashed Flat: Stevo's death, courtesy of Harry.
  • The Stoner: Ord is a pretty suave and competent take on the trope. Stevo's more of a junkie. (Also, Ord's smoking pot where Stevo's on heroin.)
  • Stupid Crooks: Too many too count. Almost all of them have moments of unbridled stupidity, as the plot demands. Some of their aims are so bad, they accidentally hit someone on their side. They also don't stop and call for a truce at a few moments, simply out of pride, or before the shooting begins, just have Stevo and Harry settle their differences outside, away from everybody else. To say nothing of Harry triggering the whole event by shooting Stevo, not stopping to think that shooting at someone during the middle of an illegal arms deal, might be a bad idea. When they do try to negotiate a ceasefire so Justine can escape and negotiate a stand-down, Vernon's stupidity ruins it.
  • Those Two Guys: Stevo and Bernie, dubbed "Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum" by Ord.
  • Token Good Teammate: Ord, almost the only sympathetic character siding with the arms dealers. Vernon is a self centred coward, Harry is a grade A Jerkass, Gordon is almost psychotic, and Martin and Justine were planning to kill and rob everyone else.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Stevo's deeds push the groups very close to violence, but everyone manages to calm down and Stevo is told to apologise. Then he brags about what he did to Harry's cousin instead, kicking off the firefight.
    • Bernie gets shot by Vern in the back when the former stands up and slowly walks away from the firefight as opposed to seeking cover.
  • Villain Protagonist: To the extent that there is a protagonist. Two of the most sympathetic members of the cast are terrorists; all the rest are arms dealers or thugs for hire.
  • Western Terrorists: The Irishmen are implied to be IRA members buying rifles to outfit their resistance. This is one of the few reasons why the film is set in the 1970s.
  • What the Hell Is That Accent?: In-universe, everyone is confused by Vernon's accent. He's quickly revealed to have Sharlto Copley's real nationality of South African.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Gordon and Vernon, toward Justine.


Example of: