It’s been a year since American Honey premiered at Cannes, and the film’s breakout star Sasha Lane has lined up her next high-profile project. Lane will star in Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire follow-up Freakshift, and fight giant subterranean crab-monsters alongside Alicia Vikander and Armie Hammer.
Free Fire, Ben Wheatley’s gangster movie that’s essentially a big group of characters played by a bunch of fantastic actors shooting and shouting at each other for 90 minutes, is about to hit theaters, and if you need more incentive than that description to go see it, a short, hilarious clip has just hit the internet.
I’ve already heard one colleague refer to Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire, in which an arms deal goes wrong and escalates into an almost 90-minute-long shootout, as a kind of cinematic high-wire act. But high-wire acts don’t last 90 minutes; watching somebody balance on a wire for 90 minutes would get pretty boring if that’s all they were doing. There’s an audaciousness to Free Fire that’s self-defeating. Yes, Wheatley pulled off a feature-length gun battle. But the result is so monotonous that I ran out of patience long before the participants ran out of bullets.
When I spoke with Armie Hammer and director Ben Wheatley about Free Fire following a day of paintball and BBQ at SXSW, it was evident that these guys are operating on the same wavelength, so it’s not exactly surprising to learn that the actor is re-teaming with the director of the upcoming shoot ’em up for another round — and this time they’re setting their sights on something a bit nastier: Monsters.
Filmmaker Ben Wheatley occupies an interesting niche in Hollywood. While Wheatley frequently works with A-list talent, he studiously avoids the type of prestigious films that might cement him as one of our best living directors. Movies like Kill List, High-Rise, and Free Fire may have devoted fandoms, but there’s no denying that they’re too idiosyncratic — too out of place in an industry that needs everything to fit into the blockbuster or art film buckets — to ever make Wheatley more than a filmmaker who draws people to him because he does his own thing.
Alicia Vikander has quickly become one of the most sought-after actresses in Hollywood after breaking out with Ex Machina and stealing the show in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and The Danish Girl. She’s currently filming Tomb Raider as the new Lara Croft, and is now in negotiations to star in Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire follow-up, Freakshift.
Sharlto Copley is the kind of guy you want on your side when the shots start flying, though you might not think that’s the case after seeing Free Fire. The first full-fledged American production from UK director Ben Wheatley is a wild warehouse free-for-all featuring an absolute murderer’s row of actors, including Copley, Armie Hammer and Brie Larson (among many others). In a film where every man (and woman) is out for himself, perhaps no one is more self-serving than Copley’s Vernon, a narcissistic gun-pusher who is, for lack of a better adjective, kind of a weenie. But on a stunt ranch just outside Austin during SXSW, Copley was far from cowardly on the frontlines of the paintball battle field.
SXSW really isn’t slouching with this year’s film festival programming (they rarely do), and today brings even more exciting additions to the lineup, including a pair of our most highly-anticipated films of 2017: Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver and Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire. The latest programming announcement also includes several intriguing indies, new films from Joe Swanberg and Evan Katz, and documentaries featuring beloved icons like Bill Nye and the Muppets.