Free Guy (MOVIE REVIEW)
Runtime: 115 Minutes
Director: Shawn Levy
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Jodie Comer, Joe Keery, Taika Waititi
Video game movies have always been seen as a joke in the world of cinema and for the most part, there's a clear reason why that’s the case. If you go out of your way to try and adapt a gaming property that relies heavily on player interaction instead of a passive viewing experience, the end results usually never work in the film’s favour because both mediums are so different on a foundational level. But in the case of Free Guy, it finally seems more apparent how the video game curse itself could be broken, not by adapting video games specifically, but instead telling a solid story in celebration of games as a medium. This film in many ways is a quirky retelling of 1997’s The Truman Show, but instead is told from the perspective of a man within an MMO video game. In taking a somewhat familiar concept but giving it a unique spin to make it feel newly original, what’s here is an incredibly creative and energetic film, brought to life by the funny-as-ever Ryan Reynolds giving it his absolute all.
In Free Guy, Ryan Reynolds plays...well, Guy. He’s a bank teller in the ultra-violent and mayhem filled Free City, and lives his life going through the same monotonous daily routine. Little does he know that he is actually just an NPC (Non-Player Character) in a video game where Free City shares the same name with the MMO Online game that his world inhabits. Learning through a player and game developer named Millie (under the username, Molotov Girl) that the game is soon going to shut down because of the Free City sequel launch, Guy takes action to become the hero and unite the NPCs to save their world before it disappears.
The best thing that Free Guy has going for it as stated earlier, is its very unique concept. While the premise of a main character becoming self aware of his fake reality absolutely isn’t anything new, it’s in the creative execution that helps to give the film an original edge. This is a project where it’s easy to tell that Ryan Reynolds is in his absolute element here. His unique stone-faced brand of comedy makes him the perfect person to introduce us to this world, being nothing more than a point of view for the audience to get introduced to a game full of archaic violence and immaturity as Free City. Anyone with an interest in gaming will find a lot to laugh at with Free City being this intentionally stupid blend of GTA Online and Fortnite; an amalgamation of cringeworthy gaming trends and players who enjoy killing strangers and squatting on their corpses. The film is full of plenty of self aware moments such as these and it all comes from a place of love for the video game industry while also being a solid social commentary for it.
Free Guy more than anything is a film about the importance of creativity and expressing individuality over financial gain. While there is a slight sense of hypocrisy with this message given this is a Disney release under Fox with plenty of references to video game and film IPs across the board, it’s still nonetheless a moral that speaks volumes about the modern gaming industry and the people who run it. Plenty of modern game publishers and developers conform to lucrative markets like the Multiplayer and Battle Royale genres because that’s the easiest way to grab an average consumer’s attention and make a consistent stream of money. Free Guy, surprisingly, is a film which goes out of its way to criticise this with Taika Waititi’s hysterical Antwan being the character to represent these kinds of scummy developers. It is an unexpected angle for this story to take, and it helped give the film some thematic weight while still being a comedic riot from beginning to end. This film is a constant barrel of laughs with rarely a dull moment in its 115 minute runtime, filled with strong visual gags, Ryan Reynold’s satirical charm and just a genuine sense of playfulness. Because almost everything seen in this film is within a video game, it gives the film an extra sense of creative freedom when it uses plenty of weapons, gadgets or a manipulation of the laws of physics to make the action very bouncy and cartoonish in the best way possible. In literally any other film, this would be seen as a problem, but in this case with the more outlandish video game concept, it gets away with a lot more while still being consistent with how its world works. In the real world of this story, the biggest highlight comes in the form of Jodie Comer as Millie. It’s been exciting to see how far she has come as an actor following Killing Eve and now seeing her as an entertaining and capable heroine in this movie both in context of the real world and the Free City video game world. She has a difficult job in this movie of having to play two different versions of the same character in differing realities and she’s a pure delight, having great chemistry with Ryan Reynolds as well as Joe Keery who was once her best friend and former game developing partner. Mixing the cast’s great performances and comedic energy with this film’s similarly creative ideas, it makes for a unique mix that helps Free Guy become one of the most fun movies of the year. Even when not every joke lands or some plot inconsistencies come about from time to time, it's only ever for brief moments and almost immediately after, the audience is left in hysterics by some of the pure absurdity conjured up by Matt Lieberman and Zak Penn’s insane script alongside the sharp and funny direction provided by Shawn Levy. If there is one film to see in a cinema this year full of hundreds of people for the best communal and comedic effect, it’s for certain Free Guy.
Free Guy is one of the most surprisingly funny and original films of the year. For a project full of this much IP brand recognition and slight pandering, it feels remarkably refreshing to have much of it pushed mostly to the background while the story here takes centre stage. Ryan Reynolds is hilarious in this film and carries this quirky and creative video game concept to the best of his ability. When the film is not making the audience laugh so much to the point of asphyxiating, it’s got some surprisingly thought provoking themes going on about the importance of games as an art form and how individualism is more beneficial than being one in the crowd. There’s a slight sense of hypocrisy in that message given it’s a Disney release but if you are willing to look past that, Free Guy is a joyous romp from start to finish with more heart than it might be letting on. Log into this immersive gaming world and check it out for yourself.
FINAL RATING:- 8/10 (GREAT)