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Ben Wheatley

Review: Free Fire

Roughly 90 percent of Free Fire is set inside a rundown warehouse, the location for a big shoot-out between warring outlaw factions. It’s as though director Ben Wheatley decided—either embracing or spoofing a tired cliché—to stage an entire movie in the spot where action pictures invariably end up anyway. We get to know this place reasonably well in the course of the 85-minute film, and you might expect the layout to be precisely oriented for the audience. If Kathryn Bigelow had directed, we would know exactly where everybody was, how far the distance between shooting perches, and the location of the exits. That kind of geographical approach gives the audience clarity.

With Wheatley’s film, it’s a free-for-all.

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‘A Field in England’: More British Weirdness From Ben Wheatley

‘A Field in England’

Anyone innocently wandering into A Field in England can be forgiven for thinking they’ve stepped through a time portal to the late ’60s. Along with its arty approach and unexplained allegorical premise, the movie explodes into full-on psychedelia after a certain stage—all the weirder for being in black-and-white. One wants to summon a few reference points, but even this is challenging. The movie’s a little Waiting for Godot and a little Magical Mystery Tour, with Vincent Price’s character from Witchfinder General hanging around. We should invoke Monty Python, too, for the film’s grubbiness and catch-all social criticism. (Had they been younger, the surviving Pythons might’ve made a fine cast for this.)

The actual setting has nothing to do with Swinging London; the film’s summary says it’s set in the mid-17th century, so that’s what we’ll go with.

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‘Sightseers’: British Tourists Up to No Good

Tina (Alice Lowe) treats dogs better than humans

A geeky devotion to roadside attractions might directly correspond to an impulse to murder—or so it is suggested in Sightseers, a British black comedy with a gory backbeat. Come for the Tramway Village in Crich or the Pencil Museum in Keswick, stay for the head-bashing. The tourists are Chris (Steve Oram) and Tina (Alice Lowe), who’ve been dating a few weeks. Chris is the roadside enthusiast, a big red-bearded lunk who likes to drive his caravan to remote areas of the Midlands. To take their first road trip together, Alice must part from her nasty mother, a cranky lady who still blames her daughter for the accidental death of the family dog.

Death, accidental and otherwise, will follow the happy couple as they travel. Though apparently amiable, Chris has some very strict ideas about acceptable behavior—he is English, after all. Rudeness, littering, or acting above one’s station will set him off in ways that rapidly become homicidal. Tina is herself not entirely balanced. In fact, the two appear meant for each other; one of the film’s most amusing strokes is the suggestion that despite their antisocial tendencies, these two lunatics might actually be in love.

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