Guy (Ryan Reynolds) wakes up and lives the same mundane day over and over again. He has a closet filled with blue shirts and brown slacks, drinks the same coffee, has the same conversation with his buddy called Buddy (Lil Rel Howery), and deals with a robbery at his job as a bank teller. It’s clear that Guy’s life is somehow both incredibly ordinary yet filled with extreme violence.
It turns out that Guy is an NPC (a non-player character the film tells us quite a few times) in an open-world multiplayer video game that blends Fortnite, Grand Theft Auto and Super Mario Bros. The online game revolves around players running around Free City and collecting in-game rewards by committing violent crimes. Guy and Buddy walk around this chaotic world, passing fires, exploding cars and shootouts like it’s an everyday occurrence. Mainly because to an NPC, it is.
After meeting Molotov Girl (Jodie Comer), he starts to develop a consciousness. He’s unaware his reality is as a videogame character whose whole purpose is to be abused by violent players. He gets a new lease of life and starts playing the game, trying to level up ad impress the new lady in his life.
Reynolds is mostly left to his own devices as Guy, with a child-like naivety despite the cruel world he inhabits. Free Guy often feels like Deadpool Breaks the Internet and if his schtick isn’t for you, this film might be unbearable. Reynolds delivers exactly the performance you think he is going to, not bothering to exercise any tools not already in his kit.
Jodie Comer, who plays dual roles as a jaded game designer and as a badass avatar in the game, is likeable and gives the film some stakes. Comer’s Millie and Joe Keery’s Key’s are trying to get their code back after it was stolen by mega-corporation Soonari. Comer and Keery are working on a different level to everyone else in Free Guy. Bringing not just plot, but also heart and soul. It’s a shame they don’t have a better script or better action scenes to get their teeth into.
Gaming giant Soonari is run by Antoine (Taika Waititi) whose obnoxious performance straddles the line between a parody of male entitlement in the videogame industry and just plain annoying. Waititi, a better writer/director than actor, tries to have fun and make something out of a thinly written villain, but it’s a lot. Free Guy misses an opportunity to critique that notoriously toxic landscape of the gaming world.
Free Guy, despite its cheesiness, manages to restrain itself from being a self-referential abuse of IPs. Unlike Space Jam: A New Legacy, Ready Player One or the mostly forgotten Pixels, it could have been much more obnoxious. The IPs that do feature are so purposely ridiculous, you can’t help but laugh. Perhaps we should all be thankful this was one of the last films that went into development before 20th Century Fox’ merger with Disney, just about avoiding it being one big advert for Mickey and friends.
Hollywood workhorse Shawn Levy (Night at the Museum, Cheaper by the Dozen, Date Night) manages to overpower the cringey script, embarrassing cameos by YouTubers and exaggerated performances. It would have been a much more enjoyable movie is more time was spent exploring this creative world instead of focusing on the dull videogame office staff.
Free Guy is a mostly enjoyable film that has very little to say about anything. It has enough laughs to keep most of the family pleased, especially fans of online gaming and streamers. The film achieves its goal of having some fun and letting Ryan Reynolds unleash his inner Ryan Reynolds, again.
Free Guy is out in cinemas now!