A Film and Television Review by Tim Riley


FREE FIRE (Rated R)If you have been waiting for a Quentin Tarantino-style action picture reminiscent of “Reservoir Dogs” or “Pulp Fiction,” but where plot and character development have been stripped down to the bare essentials, then “Free Fire” fits the bill.Running at a crisp 90 minutes, “Free Fire” spends the minimum amount of time setting up the one prolonged shootout between criminal elements that occurs in an abandoned Boston warehouse during a nighttime rendezvous. The story is all about a weapons deal to be consummated with a couple of trigger-happy Irish Republican Army members (Cillian Murphy and Michael Smiley) who seem intent on acquiring a certain type of automatic weapon for the struggles back home. While it’s not easy, nor even necessary, to keep track of the criminal players, the chief weapons dealer appears to be a South African fixer (Sharlto Copley) who fancies himself to be a smooth operator concerned about personal appearance in his impeccable Seventies wardrobe.

 Involved as intermediaries in the deal are the lone female negotiator Justine (Brie Larson) and the smug Ord (Armie Hammer), whose beard and tweed jacket make him look and act more like a college professor than a dapper arms dealer. Inside the crumbling building, the parties stage an initial exchange of the terms of the deal, but then all hell breaks loose when the van driver for the buyers recognizes a hired gun on the other side as the deviate who sexually assaulted his cousin. Gun fire is quickly exchanged and the respective parties take cover amidst the rubble in the warehouse for one extensive shootout where the hail of bullets far exceeds the capacity of any particular weapon, whether it’s a hand gun or machine gun.

 As the bullets fly and various persons are wounded, insults are also exchanged in with machine gun speed.  As if there is not enough gunplay, a couple of new players arrive on the scene shooting rifles like snipers picking off stray targets. In a setting like this, where the exchange of bullets will not abate, “Free Fire” has only one possible conclusion.  Given that gunshot wounds are inevitable, the only suspense is whether anyone is going to make it out of the shootout alive.  “Free Fire” is fueled by adrenaline and rapid-fire insults and trash talk, but mostly it’s about the exchange of gunfire that keeps the action rolling along at a non stop clip.      


 The good news about “Great News,” the new comedy television series on the NBC network, is not that Tina Fey of “30 Rock” fame is one of the many executive producers for a show struggling for newsroom relevance. Rather, it is the simple fact that veteran comic actor Andrea Martin steals the show as the meddling mother who ends up being a 60 year-old intern at a New Jersey cable news program where her daughter works. “Great News” is not just about a dysfunctional family dynamic between mother and daughter, but maybe even more so about the hiccups of staging a broadcast news program in a cutthroat competitive environment where the main players seem to be neither competent nor sufficiently talented.

 Andrea Martin’s Carol has been out of the workplace for over three decades, and yet she’s never been too far removed from involvement in her daughter Katie Wendelson’s (Briga Heelan) personal life. Complications set in when Carol decides to become an intern for Katie’s cable program called “The Breakdown,” where she’ll soon tame the wild newsroom beast that is veteran blowhard anchor Chuck Pierce (John Michael Higgins, perfectly suited for the role) Of course, the 30 year-old Katie, who struggles for relevance to get a leading role in producing a news segment, has to contend with the anxious executive producer Greg (Adam Campbell), who seems oblivious to palpable talent right in front of him.

While Katie struggles for consequence at a job where her best workplace friend is laid back video editor Justin (Horatio Sanz), whose primary value rests in dealing out Zen-like advice, it’s up to smothering mom Carol to work the angles for her daughter’s significance. Still, though the interactions between mother and daughter are fraught with often amusing, if predictable, outcomes, the developing relationship between Carol and the officious Chuck has the greatest comic potential. Of the early episodes, probably the funniest set-piece is how Carol is pressed into service to help Chuck, temporarily blinded by cataract surgery on both eyes, to help the anchor fake his way through a broadcast while feeding him lines through an earpiece.  From a practical standpoint, “Great News” has the difficult task of trying to be topical while not having the advantage, such as afforded to a live show like “Saturday Night Live,” of tapping into the immediacy of breaking news. Like the unfortunate circumstance of most TV comedies, “Great News” makes a valiant effort by letting loose a continuous barrage of jokes and one-liners that don’t always work.