Day 1: Free Fire
The hail of incessant gunfire was just the thing to keep audiences awake at the opening Midnight Madness screening of Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire at the Toronto Film Festival. Setting his film in a factory recalling Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs, the British director introduces us to a rag-tag crew of crooks buying munitions from a sleeker outfit headed by Armie Hammer, while a seeming third gang of sharpshooters disrupt the negotiations.
Wheatley introduces a woman, this year’s best actress Oscar winner Brie Larson, into the hardboiled mix, Sharlto Copley supplies the humour and the biggest sideburns in this 1978 Boston yarn while Australia’s Noah Taylor plays one of the gang.
“I think Noah’s very sympathetic in the film,” says Wheatley. “He’s a nice guy, but he just has a nasty job.”
Taylor: “It's a dirty job and somebody’s got to do it. He’s just a hired goon really.”
Taylor mentions how he’s been back in Australia working on the SBS series Deep Water, and that he lives in Brighton where the film was shot and where Wheatley also resides.
“We’re neighbours, it’s local and it was like a £5 cab ride!”
“We basically drew a circle around where we were shooting,” quips Wheatley, noting there are many Australian expats in Brighton, including Nick Cave.
When I mention how the city looks beautiful in Andrew Dominik’s film, One More Time With Feeling, Wheatley notes how Cave’s son fell to his death while they were filming.
“I’m quite scared to watch One More Time With Feeling,” notes Taylor, who co-starred in The Proposition, which Cave wrote. “My wife went this evening, but I’m not looking forward to seeing it.”
Day 2: Headshot
I felt compelled to attend the second Midnight Madness screening, Headshot, as I’d so enjoyed the raucous reception Indonesian martial arts supremo Iko Uwais had received when presenting The Raid 2 in Sundance in 2014. He didn’t disappoint in the rapid-fire martial arts movie, which was shot over 45 days after only three weeks of pre-production.
In Toronto, the cute, charismatic 33 year-old was as usual a man of few words. Though he knew how to impress and staged a fight for the crowd with veteran Singaporean actor and kung fu expert Sunny Pang, who plays his main adversary. The Mo Brothers (Timothy Tjahjanto and Kimo Stromboel) direct the film, which follows Uwais’s Ishmael, who after suffering from amnesia as the result of a serious head injury, is quickly forced to confront his enemies.
The whoops and yahoos from the audience far surpassed anything Wheatley could muster – bullets just aren't as inventive as Uwais's choreographed rampage. The Raid 2’s Julie Estelle also stars and the gorgeous kick-ass 27 year-old says she and Uwais are working on a new project together.
Day 3: The Belko Experiment
The spirit was willing but my flesh was weak, so I didn’t make it to Australian director Greg McLean’s film. According to Bloody Disgusting, the Wolf Creek director’s American production, penned by the Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn (also writer of Dawn of the Dead and director of SLiTHER) was the first major acquisition by an American distributor at TIFF.
While McLean told the website that Belko is “insanely violent and totally crazy… and total genius because of it,” Gunn explained the plot.
“Belko revolves around the American Belco company in South America which is mysteriously sealed off at the beginning of a work day and its employees are ordered to kill each other or be killed themselves. This starts an escalation of violence, where we discover the true nature of each and every Belco employee.”
On the more mainstream front Variety says the film “offers the cheerfully mean-spirited spectacle of numerous trapped people killing each other lest they be killed”, while comingsoon.net describes it as a “satirical slaughter-fest”.