Ben Wheatley's 'Free Fire' venture is a shift towards more popular cinema, he did this with grace - and at no point did he sacrifice his own directing flair.
Yes, this film has Tarantino's 'Reservoir Dogs' (1992) in mind; the use of one room throughout, a big bucks case that anyone could make off with, the huge element of trust, the use of a rock classic as a leading soundtrack, intense violence and suspense, and a big emphasis on characters and character development - but why is any of this a problem as some critics have pointed out? It simply worked here, and that's all that matters.
Wheatley has proven himself to be a master of dialogue and character development; "substance over style" describes his approach perfectly; he managed to pull of the 'one room' formula, like Tarantino did, and keep it quite engaging.
What needs to be understood is that this is a parody shootout film, a comedy, something Wheatley has always done exceptionally well; it's a funny, twisted caricature of criminals in a sticky, close-quarters situation with a Wheatley-grade touch of comedic realism that takes the mick out of generic action flicks - as very quickly all the seemingly infallible 'tough guy' characters were crawling due to gunshot wounds, this makes complete sense and is a humorous nudge to the viewer saying "you expected a bunch of running and gunning?"
The fact there is no linear story is the point, it's a deliberately nonlinear hodgepodge - linearity would defeat the point of it.
We could never expect Wheatley to make an orthodox action flick where everything just predictably falls into place, he flipped the script, everything falls out of place to great effect, it's calculated chaos done right.
All in all, it's a weapons deal gone wrong at Shakespearean levels, the qualitative aspects of the film outweigh big-budget settings, firefights, CGI, car chases, and so on, Wheatley proves you don't need that.
'Free Fire' doesn't ever try to take itself that seriously and this gives the whole film a brilliantly ironic 'laissez faire' attitude and flavour, while still being serious enough to keep the suspense up.
It's not without flaws though, as a slow intro prompted me to begin to lose interest until things finally kicked off. I also felt like there were times when characters weren't doing enough to keep the momentum going.
"The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what fiction means." -