Free Guy is a visual playground that celebrates the creativity of modern gaming – here’s our review.
Starring Ryan Reynolds, Jodie Comer and Taika Waititi, Free Guy is the latest film from Night At The Museum director Shawn Levy. Co-written by Matt Lieberman and Ready Player One screenwriter Zak Penn, it’s a sci-fi action comedy that follows Guy (Reynolds), a bank teller who is actually a non-player character (NPC) in an open-world game called Free City. Initially indifferent to the mass chaos caused by Free City players completing various missions, his world is turned upside down when he meets Molotov Girl (Comer), who inadvertently inspires him to become Free City’s newest and most unlikely hero.
When we first meet our protagonist, he’s your typical nice guy: constantly happy and incredibly polite, but easily forgettable. One random day, he realises that there is more to life than being a bank teller and effectively breaks character by seizing the day (and a pair of empowering sunglasses). All too soon, his rogue actions quickly make him an independent Free City character that doesn’t appear in the game’s coding, creating a wisecracking enigma. Meanwhile, his growing self-awareness quickly causes a melee of confusion among real-world gamers, with everyone asking who this ‘Guy’ really is.
Guy’s new sense of purpose is aided by his ‘dream girl’, who comes in the shape of Molotov Girl – the in-game character of programmer Millie, who is looking for proof that the overwhelmingly popular Free City is based on her work. With her own sense of mystery, Millie’s ulterior motive shows that Guy can be more than an NPC while they form an unlikely yet predictable connection.
Retaining his now trademark-wisecracking persona from Deadpool and Deadpool 2, Reynolds’ Guy feels like a long-lost friend with his sunny but familiar personality. His infectious enthusiasm nicely complements the coolness of the consistent Comer, who shines with a self-assured smirk while seamlessly switching between British and American accents.
But with most of the narrative focusing on Guy’s existential crisis, certain characters and plot elements – mostly taking place in the real world – feel underdeveloped. Millie’s unimaginative mission against impulsive software developer Antwan (Waititi) and her on-off partnership with programmer Keys (Joe Keery) lack complexity and emotion while denying the film’s supporting characters a proper chance to shine.
Inspired by modern role-playing games, Free Guy is a far cry from retro gaming films such as Wreck-It Ralph and Pixels as the amount of gaming jargon and RPG references flooding the screenplay and direction support a modernised take on a fake world (think The Truman Show for the internet age). With a constant flow of chaos in Free City, it can be overwhelming for non-gamers who need to play catch-up amid the film’s frenetic pace.
Yet for the most part, Free City is a visual playground that celebrates the creativity of modern gaming. With Levy experienced in creating visually complex adventure films, Free Guy’s special effects add oomph to its thrilling action sequences while hilarious interactions, flashes of pop culture and the occasional surprise both entertain and resonate with modern audiences.
For me, Free Guy is the surprise of this summer. Despite its uneven narrative, it’s hilarious and downright entertaining, proving to audiences that you don’t have to be super to be a hero.
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