TL;DR – A film that works through the sheer charisma of its cast but left me feeling hollow when I left.
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
Disclosure – I paid to see this film
Free Guy Review –
I had wanted to catch Free Guy for a couple of weeks now, but schedules never lined up, well that was until today when I managed to slip in just in time for the start of the film. I was intrigued because I like Ryan Reynolds as an actor, and I enjoy the video game/streaming intersection that the game is delving into. However, as I walked away from the cinemas there felt like a lot of opportunities were not taken.
So to set the scene, every day, Guy (Ryan Reynolds) wakes up, wishes his goldfish a good morning, gets a coffee, and goes to work at the bank, where he gets robbed multiple times a day. Because Guy is an NPC (non-player character) in the video game Free City. However, one day he notices one of the player characters in the game is humming a song that he loves, and it breaks him from his gameplay loop. It is here where he discovers a whole new world is just under his fingertips … or glasses.
While I will be a bit critical of this film, several factors do land their mark. The first of these is the sheer charismatic potential of the cast in this film that is used to the most. Ryan is the foremost here, as he hits that overlap of sincere/charming/naïve perfectly. It is always a joy to watch him hit those comedic notes, especially when he evolves into ‘blue shirt guy’. This is then juxtaposed with Taika Waititi going full ham as the evil video game executive Antwan. Every scene is a case of Taika chewing every bit of scenery he can get his hands on. For me, the real MVP was Lil Rel Howery as Guy’s friend Buddy who makes every scene he is in better for being there. Then we have Channing Tatum running riot and Jodie Comer, who strangely works better as Millie than Molotov Girl.
I also enjoyed the general setup of the film, with its two competing worlds, both digital and real life. The idea that NPCs can’t see the world they are in unless they are wearing glasses has a kind of reverse-Syndicate Wars feel. I wish they had spent a bit more time in the weirdness that is a video game from the inside, but parts of it did feel genuine, like the bank heist scene witch I think I have played hundreds of times with my friends. The highlight of this was probably the chase up the tower using power-ups, characters skins, and cheats all at once.
Where the film does fall short is its narrative outside the world. While the central conceit of an NPC becoming sentient through a quirk in the code that becomes compounded is excellent, an evil video game executive screwing over smaller businesses to make a profit while having no good ideas of their own is sadly realistic. It all falls apart with the central love story. This love story is at the very heart of the film, and unfortunately, it fails on every level for me. To add to this, the film falls into lazy stereotypes that have been used since the 1990s, and while it was nice that they thought to get some notable Twitch streamers [strangely repping for YouTube streaming], they only went for one type of streamer made those sequences bland very quickly.
Where everything fell flat for me was the ending, but to talk about the end, I need to warn that there are [SPOILERS] ahead. The whole third act didn’t work for me because there was this constant disconnect from how games/coding works and how they show it in the film. For example, there is no way a games-as-service monster like this would just have one server in one location if it had players in every corner of the world. So while there is a level of fun watching Taika saunter around swinging an axe, it never landed. It is also here where the film pulls out its big cameos, and sure Chris Evans gets a laugh, but it all felt hollow. Throughout the film, they go to extreme length to show all the power-ups/ weapons being very generic, with no trademarks here. So even though they use a portal gun, it is not The Portal Gun. But then, in the end, we suddenly have Marvel, Fortnite, and Star Wars appear out of nowhere. Even Ready Player One, with all its flaws, took the time to build the world it was playing in rather than surprise everyone with the Serenity in the third act. It all smacked of Disney going, “look at the IP we own and can now use here because we own 20th Century”.
In the end, do we recommend Free Guy? Look, while I might have walked away feeling more than a little disappointed, Ryan Reynolds & Taika Waititi are solid character actors, and it is always fun watching them on screen. So while I would not go out of my way to see it in cinemas, if a bunch of friends want to see it, well, you can do worse. If you liked Free Guy, I would also recommend to you The Hitman’s Bodyguard.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Free Guy
Directed by – Shawn Levy
Story by – Matt Lieberman
Screenplay by – Matt Lieberman & Zak Penn
Music by – Christophe Beck
Cinematography by – George Richmond
Edited by – Dean Zimmerman
Production/Distribution Companies – Berlanti Productions, 21 Laps Entertainment, Maximum Effort, Lit Entertainment Group, TSG Entertainment & 20th Century Studios
Starring – Ryan Reynolds, Jodie Comer, Joe Keery, Lil Rel Howery, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Taika Waititi, Channing Tatum, Aaron W. Reed, Britne Oldford, Camille Kostek, Matty Cardarople, Anabel Graetz, Ric Plamenco & Mike Devine with Jacksepticeye, Ninja, Pokimane, DanTDM, LazarBeam, Chris Evans, Lara Spencer, Alex Trebek, Tina Fey, Hugh Jackman, Dwayne Johnson & John Krasinski
Rating – Australia: M; Canada: PG; Germany: 12; New Zealand: M; United Kingdom: 12A; United States: PG-13