Movie Marketing Madness: Free Fire

The meeting between two or more groups of gangsters or other questionable characters is usually just one small part of a larger story. This week’s new release Free Fire, though, makes that the central element of the entire story. The movie stars Brie Larson, Armie Hammer, Cillian Murphy, Sharlito Copley and others are mobsters and other toughs who gather in an abandoned warehouse for a meeting to buy and sell some guns.

Things quickly get out of hand as no one trusts anyone else in the room. The situation descends into a shootout that pits everyone against each other, with sides and allegiances shifting as the situation evolves and everyone just wants to get out alive. The premise and main marketing hook, as we’ll see, is that what otherwise is an eight minute segment of a normal movie dispenses with all that backstory and cuts, for lack of a better phrase, to the chase for the entirety of the story.

The Posters

The first poster is kind of great. There’s not a lot to it, visually, just a bunch of arms sticking out from the middle of the background, each one clutching some type of gun. It’s simple but it both shows the major point of the movie – that it’s centered around an epic shout-out – and conveys a unique sense of humor, reducing each character to just the purpose they serve in the story, which is to shoot at the other characters.

A fun series of character posters were released next. Each one featured the name of the character and the actor that plays him or her, each image sporting a different color and a bullseye like what’s found in a shooting range overlaid on their chest. It’s funky and conveys the sense of humor and the violent story that are apparent in the rest of the marketing.

The theatrical poster continues the fun, with the main cast arrayed around the one-sheet, all of them pointing their guns at the person next to him or her. “All guns. No control” is the copy above the title treatment.

“All guns, no control” is the copy on yet another poster that shows all the characters, armed to the teeth, popping out from the middle of the design featuring the title and more.

The Trailers

It’s hard to even try and describe the insanity on display in the first trailer. It starts out with both parties arriving at a gun sale, but it becomes evident the wrong guns were brought. Feeling get hurt, egos wounded, pride dinged and it devolves into a massive shootout between the would-be buyers and sellers.

That’s it. That’s the trailer. It sounds simple but it’s a ton of fun, playing like a fever dream from Danny Boyle or Quentin Tarantino or someone like that. It’s all violence and jokes from a bunch of self-interested characters in wild 70s garb.

Online and Social

There’s not much to the official website, which isn’t unusual for A24 releases. The key art is in the middle of the page and rotates as you move your mouse around, which is cool. Alongside that are prompts to either watch the trailer or get tickets.

Other than that the only two other items here. First is a “Create a Poster” tool that lets you upload your own picture and place it in the design of the target-themed character posters. Then the “Check out the Merch” section takes you to character spotlights that have images and video fro each of the major players in the story.

There’s a Facebook page as well, but it’s not linked to from the main site, which just promotes the main A24 brand profiles on Facebook and Twitter.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nothing in the way of TV spots that I’ve been exposed to or can find. Online and social advertising has been done using the key art and trailer, respectively, to drive views, sell tickets and generally raise awareness.

Media and Publicity

A still showing off a first look at the cast constituted the beginnings of the publicity campaign. The movie later started making the festival rounds, beginning with a premiere as the closing film at the London Film Festival. It also was announced as one of the movies screening at SXSW Film, where it received decent reviews and generated some good buzz.

Closer to release the cast, including Larson and Hammer, made various press rounds. But as is often the case the conversations and headlines focused more on the franchise films they’re involved in than this movie in particular. So Larson, who had just done a round of publicity for Kong: Skull Island, wound up commenting on the upcoming Captain Marvel movie she’s starring in. Hammer too talked about the potential for an upcoming Man From UNCLE sequel and other topics,


You have to love, on some level, the audacity of making the gunfire that should be a side story into the primary element of an entire feature length film. Like I said above, this is the kind of movie that takes the clips you’re always looking up on YouTube from Tarantino, Coen Bros. and other movies and extends it out to the whole thing. It looks fun and frantic, with a dry sense of humor that acknowledges the ridiculousness of the situation but still asks you to buy into it completely.

What I find notable about the campaign is that for all its outrageousness it never loses the focus on the stars. Larson, Hammer and Copley among others are still very much in the spotlight here and are turning in what look to be funny performances. It particularly makes me want to see Larson do more straight-up comedy as her reactions and line-readings are pitch perfect, as are that of Hammer, though we’ve seen him in this kind of role before. If you’re a fan of high-concept violent comedy, this looks to be a solid choice.

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