Guy is an average fellow living in Free City. He has a job as a banker, follows a regular routine, and interacts with his fellow citizens in the exact same way every single day. But Guy realizes he is longing for something more when he meets the girl of his dreams.
He instantly falls for her and follows her as she wanders in and out of the city, but not in a creepy way. What Guy doesn’t realize is that Free City is really an open-world video game, the girl of his dreams is a player in the real world, and he’s simply a non-player character or NPC that is nothing more than a program.
Despite Guy’s sunny disposition and obliviousness, Free City is a place of pandemonium modeled after Grand Theft Auto. Players inflict violence on the NPCs, destroy buildings with everything from tanks to giant robots, and generally cause complete anarchy. So of course the game is wildly popular all over the world. The game is the creation of mad genius Antoine – or so everyone thinks.
In reality, Antoine stole the program from Millie and her friend Keys and warped the revolutionary open world into his own insane vision. Now Millie is on a mission to find the digital proof she needs in Free City to hold Antoine accountable and win her program back. But she may need the help of Guy, the NPC who has fallen head over heels in love with her, to accomplish her mission.
The MVPs of Free Guy are truly the casting directors. They managed to pull together a group of stars that make the film fun despite the familiar material.
In the lead you have Ryan Reynolds as Guy. He’s… well… Ryan Reynolds. Reynolds delivers his usual mix of rapid-fire jokes and dirty humor as one would come to expect from him.
More noteworthy is Jodie Comer as Millie / Molotov Girl. If you’ve watched Killing Eve you know she can handle drama, humor, and action. She proves it yet again here in a big way. Comer delivers the action as deftly as the comedy and when Free Guy veers into the realm of romance, she gives it the heart that makes you buy it.
I think that Jodie Comer is one of the most versatile actresses working today and her performance here makes me think she can handle any role she chooses to take on in the future. It will be interesting to see where her career continues to take her.
Reynolds and Comer are backed up by a great supporting cast. Taika Waititi stands out as Antoine. He brings his trademark insane humor to the role of the arrogant and greedy tech genius. Waititi steals every scene he’s in and delivers the most laughs per minute of screentime.
Joe Keery is also solid as Keys. He is Millie’s former business partner and possible real-world love interest. Despite the great chemistry between Comer and Reynolds, Keys has equally good chemistry with her in the real world scenes. The end result is a strange yet entertaining love triangle. Fans of Keery’s from Stranger Things should be quite happy to see his performance here.
Free Guy is filled with a number of great cameos. In fact, the cameos really are the reason to see the movie a second time. Before our screening there was a video of Ryan Reynolds asking the audience not to spoil the cameos, so I won’t do that here, but I can say that the cameos take place as both live performances and voices alone. Some of them you won’t even recognize until you see the end credits, then you’ll want that second viewing.
Another high point of the movie is all of the video game humor. There are the jokes about the differences between the game avatars and their real world players. There are jokes about newbie players as you see characters randomly walking into walls in the background of various scenes. And there are so many references to Grand Theft Auto that you almost wonder why they didn’t go ahead and say it was in that world. So if you’re a gamer, you’ll enjoy this on another level (no pun intended).
As much fun as Free Guy is, a lot of it feels done before. All of the video game jokes feel like they were done in Wreck-It Ralph. The lowly character breaking free of society feels like The LEGO Movie. And all of the real world watching Guy’s heroics feels like The Truman Show. It ends up being like a retread that’s not quite as good as what it is copying.
Free Guy never seems to find the right tone either. It is PG-13 and has a lot of strong language and sexual jokes. However, it’s too light for viewers that want to see Ryan Reynolds unleash his R-rated comedy routine. Yet it’s too mature for a lot of kids that might mistake this for a children’s film. I think Free Guy would make a lot more money as a family film, so I think they should have toned down the content to fit that genre.
While some of the movie references are fun, others feel quite forced especially in the finale. It comes across as, “We ran out of ideas, so here are some references to other properties. Enjoy!” They feel like they’re aimed at kids despite the fact that the movie is more for older audiences.
And while Ryan Reynolds appealed to viewers not to spoil moments in Free Guy, he spoiled the character of Dude in online promotions. It was one of the big moments of the film and a major part of the finale. It would have been better to save his reveal for the big screen.
Free Guy is familiar and predictable, but it is undeniably fun thanks to the performances of Ryan Reynolds, Jodie Comer, and Taika Waititi. Come for the video game jokes, stay for the cameos.
FREE GUY REVIEW SCORE: 7/10
Disney’s 20th Century Studios will release Free Guy in theaters on Friday, August 13. The film is rated PG-13 for strong fantasy violence throughout, language and crude/suggestive references.