Free Guy is the story of your “average joe” bank teller, Guy (Ryan Reynolds, Deadpool) discovering that his role in life is not as clear-cut as he thought. He is actually a non-playable character (NPC) in a video game and his whole world is about to change when he meets “MolotovGirl” aka Millie (Jodie Comer, Killing Eve). It just so happens this bank teller is more than just extremely good looking and charming, he’s the good guy about to save his world from Antwan (Taika Waititi, JoJo Rabbit), the manically villainous head honcho of the games’ development company.
The film was set to be released in July 2020 but due to COVID-19 continued to be pushed back until its release 12 August 2021. Going into this film I had low expectations given the trailers made it seem like a new adaptation of Wreck-It-Ralph (2012) or The Lego Movie (2014). During the screening it was hard not to compare with Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle (2017) as both have similar game graphics, though this film does them better. It also seems to be what Pixels (2015) or even Ready Player One (2018) wished they were. I adored the background touches to Free Guy like players in the peripheral run-jumping and scoping or glitching and running into walls like they’re on The Sims.
The casting of the film was well done. I am not personally sold on Ryan Reynolds as an actor. He seems to play the same type of character in every film he’s been in – himself. I found myself being captivated by scene-stealers Jodie Comer and Taika Waititi. Their performances whenever they were on-screen were so much more interesting to watch, more so than Ryan Reynolds. Is it any wonder though, given both Comer’s and Waititi’s outstanding performances in Killing Eve and JoJo Rabbit respectively. This, I think, was the intention given that Guy in-game is supposed to be a “blank slate”, a “blank canvas”, and a punching bag to the players of the video game. Reynolds plays that well. He’s an everyman and goes into every situation with a level of optimism you think might be grating after awhile, but is actually endearing.
Sprinkled throughout were some great surprise cameos which got some cheers and applause from the audience, they’re hard to miss and were definitely highlights of the film.
The film’s central premises is that “life is what you make it to be”. We see this play out in-game as Guy becomes self-aware and begins to teach other NPCs that they’re more than what they’re programmed to do. We also see this play out in the real world as company programmers Mouser (Utkarsh Ambudkar, The Mindy Project) and Keys (Joe Keery, Stranger Things) make decisions that paint them initially as trolls and jock-bro gamers but develops them into sympathetic characters. Waititi as the antagonist of course doesn’t get an arc or character development, instead he gets to live and breathe his maniacal villainous CEO role which I can only imagine imitates real life game-company heads. He is in it for profit and will stop at nothing to make sure he gets his millions even if it means pissing off his customers.
There are plenty of themes throughout about the toxicity of trolls and gamer-bros but thankfully it’s kept to a minimum and used in levity. The film is about positive change in life after all and making those decisions to live a more authentic you. The addition of real-life popular streamers and gamers was a nice touch and helped ground the film to make it feel like it would play out like this in the real world.
Overall, Free Guy was a fun and entertaining experience and I wouldn’t mind booting it up again in the near future.
Reviewed in theatres, August 10, 2021. Rating: M. Running time: 115 min.
PRODUCTION: 20th Century Studios presents a Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures International release of a 21 Laps Entertainment, Berlanti Productions, Lit Entertainment Group & Maximum Effort production. Producers: Greg Berlanti, Adam Kolbrenner, Shawn Levy (p.g.a.), Ryan Reynolds (p.g.a.), Sarah Schechter. Executive Producers: George Dewey, Dan Levine, Michael Riley McGrath, John McLaglen, Mary McLaglen.
CREW: Director: Shawn Levy. Writers: Matt Lieberman, Zak Penn. Cinematography: George Richmond. Editing: Dean Zimmerman. Music: Christophe Beck.
CAST: Jodie Comer, Ryan Reynolds, Taika Waititi, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Joe Keery, Lil Rel Howery.