Free Guy Movie Review

Eric Kelley

Upon arrival, Free Guy had a lot going against it. It was one of several movies delayed extensively by COVID-19, releasing around a year later than originally slated.

Additionally, Hollywood does not have an impressive track record with movies set in video games, as they are rarely deemed good or even watchable, creating a credibility problem amongst fans from the jump.

Wipe the slate clean because Free Guy may be the best movie about a video game ever made… despite not being based on an existing game.

Canadian director Shawn Levy has experience breathing life into the inanimate. For this project, he transitioned from the statues and relics of the Night at the Museum franchise to the 1’s and 0’s of the virtual world in Free Guy.

The focus of Free Guy is on a non-playable character, or NPC
called Guy (Ryan Reynolds). He is a background character in an elaborate, hyperviolent, open-world Fortnite meets Grand Theft Auto type video game called “Free City.”

He wears the same clothes every day, orders the same coffee from the same barista in the same coffee shop and goes to work with his best pal Buddy (Lil Rel Howery) at the same bank that gets robbed multiple times a day by characters controlled by actual players.

Guy is comfortable with, if not oblivious to, his monotonous life in the game. Everything for Guy revolves around his daily routine and blind optimism until he spots and becomes enamored with a real player who goes by the gamer handle
Molotov Girl (Killing Eve’s Jodie Comer).

After acquiring a special pair of sunglasses, Guy discovers the truth about the virtual world around him, thrusting him into the foreground of a The Matrix meets The Truman Show type action romcom bonanza.

In the real world, it is revealed that Molotov Girl is a programmer named Millie, who previously worked with another tech genius named Keys (Stranger Things’ Joe Keery) on the development of a revolutionary virtual game that would mimic the real world and allow everything within it to evolve organically, as opposed to simply giving players an endless supply of repetitively violent missions to perform daily.

Millie believes there is evidence within Free City to prove that the game’s egomaniacal publisher Antwan (Taika Waitiki) stole their work and used it to create a mere cash grab of a game.

Keys is hesitant to help Millie as he has resigned himself to work for Antwan, trading his aspirations for a paycheck. Unable to depend on her ex-partner, Guy becomes the perfect inside man for her mission.

Levy does an admirable job switching between the real and virtual worlds, though, the more interesting plot events happen in Free City whether through the off the wall action or the hilarity of a montage of Guy sticking it to all the “trolls” by leveling up through positive missions in a game full of players doing anything but.

On the flip side, the real-world plot kind of boils down to a showdown about intellectual property rights and the ever so familiar plight of a boy who doesn’t know how to tell a certain girl how he feels. All of this is hardly a surprise though… what video game isn’t made to be more exciting than real life

Knowing Reynolds was starring, I expected to laugh. He has played several varieties of superheroes on screen throughout his career (We don’t talk about Green Lantern though) so his ability to play a charming action hero is mere child’s play.

However, Comer is the breakthrough star of the film, hypnotically elevating both the action-packed scenes of Molotov Girl and the character-driven ones of Millie. Keery does an admirable job in his best movie role to date, though, his character often yields a bit too much to Waititi’s over the top hipster manchild of a villain that seems more cartoonish than menacing.

Free Guy is a comedic satire of gaming but may also be one of the smartest films about gaming and the gaming industry. It shows itself to be a film that understands the state of affairs of the video game industry in the real world.

From indie developers getting bought out and silenced by much larger companies to the influence of toxic behavior by numerous individuals on the gaming community, Free Guy has plenty to say… and isn’t wrong.

As if showing homage to the gaming community, the film is chalk full of things familiar to modern gamers such as missions, med kits and player hubs.

Additionally, it was a fantastic decision to incorporate actual gamers and well-known streamers like Pokimane and Ninja, cameos that give the film a sense of modern credibility that so many video game films before it failed to establish.

Admittedly, some of the “gamer culture” references and jokes will be lost on non-gamers and movie goers beyond a certain age.

The film will mean more to viewers who get the references and know the names associated with the important cameos but even to those that don’t, it is a story with plenty to love that everyone can delight in.

Filled with pop culture references, a zany, yet somewhat true take on gaming life and the charming on-screen chemistry of Reynolds and Comer, Free Guy provides a feel good experience during a time when many people could use just that.