'Free Fire' Feels Scarily Real

by Kayleigh Hughes

There's a new shootout movie in town, and it's got the Martin Scorsese seal of approval. Ben Wheatley's Free Fire, which opens April 21, was produced by Scorsese, and tells the story of two teams of criminals in 1970s Boston that meet up in a warehouse for an arms exchange that goes absolutely, chaotically wrong. That warehouse serves as the setting for almost the entire movie, and the action all plays out inside it, with rounds on rounds of gunfire winnowing down the players in the rapidly paced, smartly staged shootout. All of the characters, played by Brie Larson, Armie Hammer, Sharlto Copley, and Cillian Murphy, among others, are full of quirks and unique backstories that feel extremely fleshed out. And while Free Fire isn't exactly based a true story, it does have some bizarre real life inspiration.

Wheatley has been very open about his filmmaking process during the press tour for Free Fire, and one of the more interesting anecdotes that has come up in interviews is the inspiration for the events of the film. Wheatley told The Guardian in March that it was an FBI report of a shootout in Miami in the 1980s that got the gears turning in his head. The report, according to the paper, was full of "bozos" who kept missing their targets, and its account of the chaos inspired Wheatley and his wife Amy Jump to start plotting a shootout that went down in similar ways.

Wheatley elaborated on the story when talking to Den of Geek recently, explaining that the shootout contained in the FBI report "just went on for ages." He noted that "no one was dying, but they were all kind of getting wounded. Eventually, I think, a couple of the FBI guys were tragically killed." Turns out, heavily armed criminals and FBI agents are still subject to the problem of human fallibility and clumsiness. Ultimately, Wheaton used many of the details of the report, including descriptions of how many shots were fired and where to bullets went, to help craft Free Fire. The movie goes all in as an action film, and is what Wheaton described to the Independent as "A genre movie with a big ‘G’."

Free Fire is guaranteed to keep you entertained, and honestly, the way Wheaton describes that FBI report makes me tempted to exchange my typical summer beach reads for some FBI files.