FREE GUY is directed by Shawn Levy. The film stars Ryan Reynolds, Jodie Comer, Lil Rel Howery, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Joe Keery, and Taika Waititi, in addition to several celebrity cameos.
The naive and blindly optimistic Guy leads a life he enjoys, going to work as a bank teller each day, alongside his best friend Buddy, a bank security guard. But when a mysterious woman appears and gets Guy’s attention, he becomes increasing curious about the world around him. What Guy doesn’t know is he’s actually an NPC in a multiplayer online video game, which is played quite heavily around the world. Who is the mystery woman, and will Guy’s life change drastically as a result? And will he become aware that he’s an artificially-created game character?
Movies and television shows based on video game-style worlds are nothing new, although this subgenre of sorts didn’t really start to hit its stride until recent years. FREE GUY features fan-favorite comic actor Ryan Reynolds (probably best known for playing Marvel superhero Deadpool these days) putting his own spin on the concept of virtual worlds and online gaming. The movie has a quirky premise and interesting characters both in the game itself and the real world. While the movie does somewhat struggle between balancing the two worlds (the real world can never compete with the always-funny Reynolds in the game world), it’s a surprisingly funny film with more than a few entertaining moments. Delayed several times due to the recent pandemic in the world, it’s now one of the unexpected cinematic surprises of the summer of 2021.
The premise itself is quite entertaining and you couldn’t ask for a better leading man than Ryan Reynolds. This guy has established himself as one of the funniest men in the entertainment world in recent years, and it’s no surprise that the scenes involving him and his interactions with other people are the best in the film. Blindly optimistic and happy, seeing his world turned upside down by unexpected developments and discoveries makes for some laugh-worthy moments. The supporting cast includes the likes of a criminally-underused Lil Rel Howery and a delightfully over-the-top Taika Waititi, but everyone here plays second fiddle to Reynolds. It’s his movie from start to finish, and while that’s not a bad thing, it does somewhat take away from the B-story in the real world, involving the creation of the movie’s massive online multiplayer game and the controversies surrounding it (but no spoilers here).
One truly impressive feat is the world that the movie creates, specifically its video game world. Anyone who’s played online worldwide games will appreciate the attention to detail and the general premise of the game. Films like WRECK-IT RALPH and READY PLAYER ONE showed us impressive game-centric universes that weren’t limited to a single real-world franchise, and FREE GUY tries to take things to the next level, mostly succeeding along the way. It feels like a believable action-adventure experience, and it’ll hit close to home for gamers.
The tone of the movie is surprisingly effective as well. It’s loud and action-packed, but there’s a heart in there too, with believable and relatable characters. Sure, Reynolds has a one-liner for all occasions that hit more often than they miss, but he’s not just a mindless joke machine here. Seeing his chemistry with everyone else and a believable plight that he’s suddenly facing speaks for itself. It’s tough to write a conventional review for FREE GUY for the mere reason that it’s not a conventional movie. Hats off to Mr. Reynolds who keeps the jokes coming but never feels like he’s rehashing anything.
It’s not quite a perfect movie. As I’d stated before, everyone plays second fiddle to Ryan Reynolds, even if some of them do manage to get their share of decent moments. Likewise, the B-story in the real world is never anywhere near as much fun or interesting as the one actually set in the game, although I won’t deny seeing Taiki Waititi as an over-the-top software mogul of limited sanity was quite hilarious. It’s also a bit overlong; at just under two hours it does feel like a little bit of extra editing would’ve been something the production could’ve benefited from.
Minor shortcomings aside, FREE GUY may be the most fun you’ll have at the movies all summer. Ryan Reynolds is always a funny Guy (joke most definitely intended!), and this one’s no exception to the rule, putting him in an interesting situation with an intriguing story unfolding around him. He tackles the material as only he could do, and makes for a great leading man as usual. Gamers and comedy film fans alike won’t want to miss this one. Three out of four stars, highly recommended!