Wheatley’s Dark Side

In this week’s edition of The Business from KCRW, Ben Wheatley discusses his newest film Free Fire. Backed by A24, this film centers on a 1970’s arms deal gone awry between member of the Irish Republican Army and a South African gunrunner. While the film packs in a lot of violence and action, the trailer also reveals that the film is intended to be quite comical as well, featuring characters that spout out witty quips in-between gunfire.

Wheatley has been making movies continuously ever since his debut in 2009, Down Terrace. His films can be a bit polarizing as they feature lots of violence and action. Free Fire is similar in nature. In fact, Matt Holzman, host of the KCRW podcast The Document, described the film as the third act of a typical action film with all of the action taking place. The majority of the film is concentrated on the shootout.

Wheatley explains that most of his films have a dark aspect to him because both he and his wife, Amy Jump, who writes and edits his films, are very pessimistic individuals, and his storytelling just tends to involve death and violence. He is not making a statement. He simply sees the world in a dark perspective and decides to make films with a grim tone, though adding some humor here and there, placing the films in the category of dark comedy. Wheatley even admits, “I want to make a film where no one is killed, but I just can’t yet.”

Wheatley is making films that truly reflect his paradigm, and that is true artistic integrity. His struggle seems to be more about finding new stories that are different from his other films rather than stressing about financial risk or critical reception. Even if one does not like his films, it is hard to disrespect someone with conviction. The premise of Free Fire may be very dark, but one look at the trailer shows that it will also probably very funny and incredibly entertaining. It was released last Friday, and I am eager to see Wheatley’s twisted sense of comedy and humanity on the big screen.

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