Well, movies, it was nice seeing you for a bit. With it looking like things might get a bit more restrictive soon, at least we have a fun movie to comfort us in the meantime. Free Guy is the latest movie to emerge from its delayed coma and jump into the theater space. This Ryan Reynolds vehicle, which has been delayed from 2020, has landed just in time to brighten our days and remind us that optimism is something to aspire to. Free Guy was a hell of a lot of fun but may suffer from repeat viewings.
I was truly worried this movie was going to let me down. After so many movies failing to strike a chord with me this year, I was sure this video game-esque Ryan Reynolds vehicle was going to be mildly entertaining but unable to keep me occupied for a few hours. What I was met with was absolutely that but also a film with a lot of heart, imagination, and something that felt like it actually understood video games and their player base, unlike movies that have come before it.
Leave it to a movie inspired by a video game to better capture that feeling than a movie actually based on a video game such as Mortal Kombat. This by no means paints gamers in a great light, but it has a certain hope for growth and genuine warmth to it.
Director: Shawn Levy
Release Date: August 13, 2021
Free Guy is the GTA movie we didn’t know we wanted. The film places an NPC (or non-playable character) in the world of a quasi-GTA Free City where the titular Guy (Ryan Reynolds) is in the role of a bank teller. As the story progresses, Guy has aspirations outside of his assigned tasks. A chance encounter with MolotovGirl (Jodie Comer), aka Millie, awakens something inside Guy and he begins to improve and evolve to become the ultimate Great Guy within the game space.
Ryan Reynolds and the cast do a fantastic job at bringing together this GTA-like world that allows a wide-eyed optimist of a character to view the world through the lens of our worst tendencies with child-like innocence. These NPCs go through their daily tasks while the chaos of an open-world video game explodes around them. They treat robberies and abuse by players as normalcy and there’s even an NPC who constantly has his arms up to save time because they are robbed so frequently. The monotony starts to get to Guy as he shows signs of wanting to try new and different things. You’d think in a world with Scorpion tanks, flamethrowers, and armed bandits running around that Guy’s decision to order a cappuccino instead of a regular coffee wouldn’t be the most alarming thing these characters have encountered that day.
Once Guy’s world is opened up to endless possibilities thanks to a particularly “sleepy” sunglasses person, something the NPCs refer to the players around them, he decides that he has to level up to help out Millie. Unlike the rest of the gamers, Guy chooses to be the good guy and does things like stop robberies, confiscate guns from hostile players, and generally do good deeds to increase his level. He is initially thought to be a hacker wearing an illegal NPC skin, which leads to some funny back and forth where some NPCs ask him to take his skin off. Guy’s complete bewilderment at being asked such a thing is played perfectly. Reynolds is able to capture the innocence and wonderment that Guy needed to be and have people be inspired by his actions.
Reynolds isn’t alone out there by any means. Jodie Comer shines as MolotovGirl/Millie, an independent game developer who is in Free City to uncover potential evidence against the company that developed the aforementioned game. She is a great presence that helps Guy evolve and gives him more of a purpose, without being relegated to a love interest. Lil Rel Howery is there as Guy’s best friend, Buddy. He is comfortable in his NPC life and hanging out with his best friend until things start to really change and he sees what things could be like.
Taika Waititi is, unfortunately, one of the detractors of this film as his overblown performance as Antwan, the creator of Free City, is more a distraction than funny. He goes so over the top at points that you just want to go back to Guy and Free City all the quicker. Everyone else does a good job, but the real cherry on top comes from all the cameos that are too good to spoil.
I will say to keep your ears open for some of them and others will jump out and steal the scene most times. Free Guy could’ve done with less distracting cameos from annoying Twitch streamers though. As fun as most of the cameos were, the lack of surprise on repeat viewings may dampen the impact a little bit.
Free Guy is a movie that benefits from some solid, energetic direction from Shawn Levy and charismatic turns from the main stars. The premise is at its most fun in the first thirty minutes of the movie. It builds to interesting ideas that don’t ask the most daunting questions but still try to appeal by trying. This is an easy movie to recommend for a good time.