From a screenplay by Matt Lieberman and Zak Penn, Free Guy is a witty, innovative and refreshing film ably supported by a charismatic cast
Starring Ryan Reynolds, Jodie Comer, Lil Rel Howery, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Joe Keery, and Taiki Waititi
In a film industry which seems dominated these days with sequels or adaptations or remakes, it’s refreshing to enjoy something which is entirely original. This is what Free Guy provides in spades: a brazen jolt of silly, balls-to-the-wall creativity. With elements of The Truman Show and The Lego Movie, there is an element of familiarity even in the unique set up of this film.
Life for Guy (Ryan Reynolds) is highly predictable. Every day he awakes, greets his goldfish, picks the same blue shirt out of his wardrobe and heads off to work. Unfortunately, Guy lives in Free City, an open-world video game like Grand Theft Auto in which he is only an NPC. The entire town finds itself beset by players wearing sunglasses and Guy’s entire existence revolves around lying on the floor of the bank while they are robbed at gunpoint. This is all that he knows how to do.
That is, until he sees MolotovGirl (Jodie Comer), the girl of his dreams, and is inspired to steal a pair of sunglasses and take his destiny into his own hands. In the real world, MolotovGirl is actually Millie, a coder whose work was stolen by Free City’s developer Antwan (Tamika Wahiti). Desperate to find evidence of his crimes, she scours through the game, attempting to gain the support of her previous partner, and other creator of the code Keys (Joe Keery).
As it turns out, the secret to revealing that code comes from Guy who, freed from the restrictions of his previous life, turns to performing heroic deeds amongst the players of Free City. His newfound, unexpected sentience is a boon for both Millie and Keys, though immensely threatening for game creator Antwan, who starts pushing for a speedy release for Free City 2, to allow Free City to be wiped from existence entirely.
Free Guy is quite the love letter to the video game genre, and there are many fun details to appreciate within the background. From the bloodless, rag doll fashion that characters fly through the air when hit by a speeding vehicle, to random background characters repeatedly jumping up and down, there’s much to appreciate here.
Arguably, a massive part of the success of the film comes from the likability of its core cast. Reynolds plays Guy with a heartwarming, innocent naïveté, quite similar to Emmett in The Lego Movie, and this lack of understanding is the source for much of the film’s humour. Doing much of the heavy lifting is Jodie Comer, who plays both fiercely intelligent, dogmatic Millie as well as her Free City avatar MolotovGirl. Here she is able to flex many of her acting muscles, demonstrating her ability as an action heroine, as well as comedy, and also the sheer depth of the emotion that she is able to portray. In much lesser hands the more emotional, heightened moments really wouldn’t fly.
As well as being highly comedic, tense and action-packed, Free Guy also has a wonderful message, demonstrating the importance of seizing one’s own destiny. This is seen both through Guy, who has to fight against his very nature and programming, almost to defy his entire universe, as well as with Millie and Keys, who must defy the obscenely powerful Antwan. Within this, the battle between rampant capitalism and creative innovation is also explored, with Antwan purely motivated to produce something that will maximise his profits, while Millie and Keys are interested in bettering the world and using technology for new purposes.
The Truman Show for the gaming generation, there is something to be appreciated by all audience members. With heaps of bombastic, visually engaging action sequences, lashings of unexpected humour and surprising depth of emotion, Free Guy will stick with you afterwards for all the right reasons. While there’s little doubt that there will be no recapturing the lightning in a bottle magic that is this instalment, it would be highly surprising if a sequel doesn’t end up on the table in the coming years.
Free Guy was released in the UK on August 13th exclusively in cinemas