Free Guy

August 13th, 2021




I’m not a video game guy anymore, which I talked about in my review for Werewolves Within, and it’s obvious that the older I get, they will just continue to pass me by. In Free Guy, the narrative is in a full video game universe rush, which is something that I can easily pick up on, and simultaneously feel an empty sense of disconnection to the one thing a lot of people love. It’s not Free Guy’s fault, that’s on me. Shawn Levy’s Truman Show-style video game movie has a lot going on, some funny stuff, and an energy filled Ryan Reynolds to keep us entertained, which was just enough to keep me happy. Much like the video game it’s set in, there’s a lot of mindless fun in Free Guy, with the stakes being low, the colors bright, and plenty of video game lingo to keep the stomachs of gamers filled. Free Guy has the good and the bad things of video games, it wore me down a little, made me laugh, and has me itching to play Grand Theft Auto one more time.

Our hero is Guy (Reynolds), a character in a video game called Free City. He is a NPC, which stands for Non-Player Character, which in layman’s terms is a person in a video game background that exists to be beat up or just stand in the scenery. Everyday is the same for Guy, like a computer character’s existence in Groundhog Day, waking up, saying hello to his goldfish, putting on his standard powder blue shirt and khaki pants. He grabs his coffee, walks to work at the bank, and says hello to his security guard friend Buddy (Lil Rel Howery). Happening parallel to his day are all the gamers, existing in their avatar form, robbing banks, shooting other NPC’s, crashing cars, blowing up helicopters, and doing what they can to level up. This is the only life that Guy knows, but what he doesn’t know is that his reality is all just numbers and codes…until he starts to take control of his own reality, becoming a fan favorite known as “blue shirt guy”. The question is if it’s a glitch or is Guy’s life becoming more than just a game?

Playing in the real world is Millie (Jodie Comer), catching Guy’s eye as Molotov Girl, where her real world motivation is that she is on the hunt to find the code that was stolen from her and good friend Keys (Joe Keery). They invented a game together, but in their pursuit of making it a success, Keys began working with Soonami game company CEO and code stealer Antoine (Taika Waititi). Stuck in the middle of this pursuit is Guy, who falls in love with Molotov Girl in his universe, but with this new found realization of his computer consciousness, the two of them bond to take down this greedy CEO through the Free City world.

The positives in Free Guy are many and the negatives take it down various pegs. The screenplay written by Matt Lieberman and Zak Penn knows how to play off and poke at the silly, yet entertaining sides about video games, including the repeating death sequences, the thrilling CGI car chases, mixed in with the whipping comedic timing of Ryan Reynolds. His acting style works in this role, in which director Shawn Levy is aware of harnessing his Deadpool cynicism, and his Just Friends love-sick humor. The negative sides are the corporate injections of product placement, a hyperactive narrative that isn’t waiting to establish characters, and my biggest problem, an incredibly annoying performance from Taika Waititi. The good outweighs the bad in Free Guy, but it’s weighed down by meta injections of YouTube influencers commenting, and obvious use of intellectual properties. Similar to Jungle Cruise, it’s the Hollywood system chewing up what could be a better movie.

This is why that 2 ½ star rating is certainly more on the positive side. It’s better when doing the Truman Show-style stuff, instead of the comic-book movie action. One thing is that Jodi Comer reveals she can be the queen of everything, where she’s sweet, funny, and kick-ass; While Reynolds proves again he can be a delight without a cape or mask on. In the end, Free Guy is a mixed bag, where the runtime is too long and the ending is never threatening, but the ride along the way is extremely entertaining. It’s like a video game. It’s a lot of fun and had my attention the entire way, but it provided little nutrition to my brain. The best way to describe it is Ready Player Fun. Now it’s game over, Guy.



Written by: Leo Brady

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