Free Guy

Release: Friday, August 13, 2021

👀 Theater

Written by: Matt Lieberman; Zak Penn

Directed by: Shawn Levy

Starring: Ryan Reynolds; Taika Waititi; Joe Keery; Jodi Comer; Lil Rel Howery

 

***/*****

Following more the logic of the heart than the brain, Free Guy is a whacky but entertaining circus of big visual effects, videogame Easter eggs, and shameless (more like proud) product placement for parent company Disney, which now owns the world. It’s also the perfect environment for Ryan Reynolds to flourish, one in which cutting loose and just doing you is the whole point. Or was supposed to be!

The movie’s big draw is of course Ryan Reynolds doing his typical Ryan Reynolds thing, but this is also literally a love letter to gamers and coders. Being knowledgeable about technical stuff will surely elevate the experience though by no means is it a requisite. Free Guy takes a surprisingly high concept approach to a basic template. This is all about a guy (lowercase ‘g’) pursuing his dream girl, a pretty classic convention often obfuscated by all the chaos. Very little here is designed to be stored in the long-term memory. Instead director Shawn Levy and his writing team work overtime to stimulate the pleasure center of the brain as often as possible, injecting silliness, cartoonish violence and a surprising amount of heart into one hyperactive summer blockbuster.

In an open-world game called Free City, Guy (Reynolds) wakes up each morning in a Groundhog Day loop of obliviousness to what this place really is and his role in it. His best friend is Buddy (Lil Rel Howery — Get Out; Bird Box), the cheerful security guard at the bank where Guy works as a teller. Neither has a clue that their lives are a programmed simulation. One day on his way to work he passes a woman humming a Mariah Carey tune and is smitten. He pursues her but unfortunately that train goes off the rails. However something profound has changed within him.

Molotov Girl’s the name and “Leveling Up” is the game he must play if he is to impress her. So of course the eternally upbeat and decreasingly naive Blue Shirt Guy plays along, but he won’t gain experience by doing what most players do — holding NPCs (non-player characters) hostage, blowing things up, generally being lawless savages. No, he’s going to do good deeds, a strategy that earns him Molotov Girl’s respect and a cult following. In fact he fast becomes a “player” of interest for many throughout the world plugged into Free City, represented in a series of stilted cameos by real YouTube celebrities and gamers.

His increasing autonomy also attracts the attention of game developer Antwan (Taika Waititi), for whom the brilliant code writers Keys (Stranger Things‘ Joe Keery) and Millie (Jodie Comer — Killing Eve; Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker) work as dogs for their master. I mentioned before how very little is going to be remembered for long, and if you’re a fan of the Kiwi comedian that’s definitely a good thing. He’s actually pretty awful as the movie’s one-note villain whose whole deal is stealing other people’s work and being as insufferable as possible. In fairness, the character isn’t written to be anything more but his acting is of a quality where you suspect the director didn’t have the cohones to edit his Oscar-winner.

Maybe the director didn’t feel like meddling because he has so much on his plate. Free Guy is arguably over-ambitious, particularly considering a sequel has already been green-lit. What’s going to be left to tell? Yet for all that it is burdened with, the story moves pretty fluidly as it hops in and out of the game, an anarchic environment inspired by the likes of GTA, Fortnite and The Sims, with spirited input from the young Keery and Comer keeping us invested in the affairs of the real world. Concurrent to the Guy plot is a heist involving precious data which could incriminate Antwan and potentially save Free City from his future nefarious plans. To get there, Millie and Keys need to access a secret location called The Stash, and they could really use some help.

Combining the playground aesthetic of Ready Player One, the voyeurism of The Truman Show and The Matrix‘s march toward salvation, Free Guy is a Frankenstein of elements and homages that somehow ends up morphing into its own ridiculous thing. I mean, where else are you going to see Reynolds as an evil David Hasselhoff avatar whose coding is disturbingly incomplete and whose face is super-imposed on an actual bodybuilder? Okay, so I lied. That’s one thing you’re never going to forget from this movie.

Lucky Guy

Moral of the Story: Huge entertainment value trumps logical storytelling and one seriously annoying villain. Because I am a big fan of Ryan Reynolds’ comedic act Free Guy is probably my favorite blockbuster of the year. It’s far from perfect but it is really fun and super easy to get along with, even for non-gamers such as myself. 

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 115 mins.

Quoted: “Is this what recreational drugs feel like?”

Check out the pretty sweet new music video for Mariah Carey’s Fantasy here! 

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent o the blog owner is prohibited. 

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; 20th Century Studios 

10 Comments

  1. Actually, re-reading this, it kinda sounds like one of those turn your brain off and just have fun sorta movies. This part in particular: “pursuing his dream girl, a pretty classic convention –often obfuscated by all the chaos–“, Being a PC-game-geek I’m now wanting to watch said chaos for myself!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. hey bro! long time eh? I’ve been off in my own shitty world for god, a year? Anyways I’m actually writing again, which is good 🙂 Also good is seeing you still writing bud 🙂

    As for this film… I admire your dedication! I couldn’t bring myself to watch somethin like this – yep I’m still a snobby prick 😉

    oh and i read ur quiet place II review but the comments say they’re closed.

    Please tell me why am I the only one to dislike them? I feel so alooooone =[

    Actually though I liked the more actiony-style of this new one cus the first was so predictable I couldn’t feel any tension at all. I remember discussing it with ya when it came out – remember that nail in the stairs? It still gives me a small chuckle, the shot of it was a close-up and all.

    Y’know I gave that flick two further viewings to try and see what everyone else did. I wish I did!

    and i forget how this ended man, as in, did it end in one of those obvious ‘wait till the third installment to find out what happens!’ type endings?

    anyways, sorry for the ramble… I look forward to again making this one of my go-to sites =] As for me, I’m conflicted cos I wanna write about movies again but I still have that goddamned novel to edit!

    k, i’ll stfu now =]
    Enjoy your week mate!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. He lives!!!

      Fantastic to hear from you buddy. Has it really been a year or so? I guess it has good lord.

      Happy to see you around again for sure, and I hope to see new posts from you as well!

      While I won’t understand your push back against A Quiet Place — both films are really strong IMO — I certainly don’t think you’re alone. Perhaps it’s an issue with the use of sound and the design of the story? Maybe that was made too big of a deal and that put you off?

      As for Free Guy, yeah unless you’re a big fan of Ryan Reynolds, and I do mean quite a big fan, it’s probably not going to do anything for you. Especially if you’re not also a gamer

      Like

      1. I used to be a big gamer, but don’t have strong feelings either way re- Ryan Reynolds, only that he was a great Deadpool. I’ll probably skip this one then as there are a fuck ton of foreign films from late last year and this year that I need to catch up on.

        But jesus you replied to this comment almost a month ago, it feels like only a week ago! Playing music just for the hell of it really makes time and days fly by, goddaaamn

        Like

  3. Honestly I don’t acknowledge the critical consensus of a film until you post your review. True story. Perhaps that’s because I gave it this movie the exact same rating. 3/5 stars. 👍🏼

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Surely you don’t hold me in that high regard, Mark! 😉 That’s amazing, thank you!

      Yeah I had fun with Free Guy. More fun than I was expecting, and despite the warnings about Taika Waititi. The low point of the movie for sure, and by quite a margin. It’s like he’s actively trying to distance himself from being the nice guy right now, between this and playing Adolf Hitler.

      Like

    1. I hope you have a good time with it Fraggle, it’s a little bonkers. But it’s also a lot of Ryan Reynolds. 🤪😜😍

      Like

Comments are closed.