Free Guy review – finally a video game movie it’s ok to like
Pre-Pandemic, Ryan Reynolds was on a hot streak. The Canadian star, once considered a likeable actor who never quite broke through, made the big time with R-Rated hero Deadpool. Suddenly, everything he touched turned to gold, making unexpected hits from The Hitman’s Bodyguard and Detective Pikachu, going viral with ads for his gin company featuring frenemy Hugh Jackman, and in an unexpected turn of events buying Wrexham Football Club. As the global box office endures a bumpy return, can his hot streak continue with novel comedy Free Guy?
Reynolds plays Guy, a happy-go-lucky bank teller who enjoys his life in Free City. That is, until the avatar of a programmer (Jodie Comer) shatters his world that he is an NPC, a Non-Playable Character living in a video game. Worse still, the game’s about to be shut down. To save life as he knows it, Guy must work out a way to become the hero of his own story.
What sounds like a very original idea soon shows its influences. The set up is very similar to The LEGO Movie, while Reynolds is the same enthusiastic and naïve hero he is in a lot of films. Still, these formulas are proven, and make the first half of the film very fun as Guy and Millie/Molotov Girl (her in-game handle) try to work out the plans of an ego-centric CEO (Taika Waititi) by improving Guy’s score. This involves some great sequences where Guy completes Grand Theft Auto style mission using non-violence. Authenticity is added through a litany of cameos from enthusiastic real-life game streamers, and some faces that will be familiar to movie fans too.
It’s a film that is eager to entertain, but things start to glitch after a while. The pop culture references are relentless, and the narrative becomes repetitive as time goes on. It promises to go somewhere deeper but never quite gets there, but that isn’t to say things crash and burn entirely. The chemistry between Comer and Reynolds is fun, while Joe Keery and Utkarsh Ambudkar win your affection as Millie’s co-workers. Baddie Taika Waititi can be a bit much, but in a film on such a sugar high it feels appropriate.
One of the films that migrated from Fox following Disney’s takeover, Free Guy is best enjoyed with tempered expectations. It’s no game-changer, and won’t define a culture any more than Ready Player One or Wreck-It Ralph did. It is, however, a sporadically exhilarating studio movie that wants nothing more than to make you smile, and that’s no bad thing.
Free Guy is in cinemas from 13th August.