Free Guy delivers a hilarious, heartwarming, and refreshingly original perspective to ultra-violent open world gaming. The film cleverly satirizes a culture that thrives on reckless abandon. You can sit in your mother’s basement while rampaging through virtual streets. Shoot everything in sight. Kill, steal, and drag race until your thumbs give out. But what would happen if an NPC, a non-player character that’s usually the fodder for slaughter, became self aware and changed the values of his reality? Free Guy is an unexpectedly humanistic journey in a digital domain.
Ryan Reynolds stars as Guy. He works as a bank teller in the chaotic Free City, where tanks pancake cars and helicopters randomly crash into buildings. Guy wears the same blue shirt and khaki pants every day. Drinks the same coffee, says hello to the same people, and hits the floor like clockwork when the bank is continuously robbed. He wonders what it would be like to wear cool sunglasses, drive fast cars, and most importantly, meet the girl of his dreams. Guy’s routine never varies. But he does enjoy the company of his best friend, Buddy (Lil Rel Howery), the bank’s timid security guard. Who doesn’t understand Guy’s desire for change.
Guy’s life takes an eye-opening turn with a chance encounter. There’s something about Molotov Girl (Jodie Comer) that he just can’t resist. His efforts to impress her causes a tidal wave of change in Free City. Meanwhile at Soonami Studios, two programmers (Joe Keery, Utkarsh Ambudkar) alert the company’s rude and arrogant owner (Taika Waititi) that something strange is happening in their globally popular online game. As Guy becomes the heroic “Blue Shirt Guy”, Molotov Girl comes to the stunning realization that he is not an avatar of a human player.
Free Guy succeeds on multiple fronts. The trailers market the film as a big-budget, heavy CGI, popcorn spectacle with huge action scenes. That’s entirely true, but it’s also a story about love, friendship, and the pursuit of happiness. Guy doesn’t take pleasure in being mean or inflicting suffering. He genuinely wants everyone to find fulfillment and purpose. His optimistic outlook may sound corny, but it plays out fantastically. Guy’s altruism, initially confounding to the legion of Free City gamers, becomes a rallying cry for civil discourse.
Free Guy is loaded with great cameos. One in particular had my theater rolling in the aisles. The small bits are also quite humorous. Ryan Reynolds drops a few wicked double entendres with his deadpan delivery. His star shines brightest, but the supporting cast has good chemistry. Jodie Comer continues to show tremendous range as an actress. Her character has two distinctly different personalities. She’s a ferocious ass-kicker in Free City, and a cute nerd searching for justice in the real world. Taika Waititi nearly steals the show. His browbeating of hapless computer geeks gets a whole lot of laughs.
Online gaming easily descends into a cesspool of toxic behavior. Free Guy shows that it doesn’t have to. Open world environments can be fun, positive, and accepting spaces for everyone. Audiences are going to love the upbeat message of this film. The ending is well done. You’ll walk out with a smile. Free Guy is produced by 20th Century Studios, 21 Laps Entertainment, and Berlanti Productions. It will be released theatrically on August 13th by Walt Disney Pictures.