Free Guy (2021)

Free Guy
Director: Shawn Levy
Writer: Matt Lieberman, Zak Penn
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Jodie Comer, Lil Rel Howery, Joe Keery, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Taika Waititi
Seen on: 16.8.2021

Guy (Ryan Reynolds) is a bank teller and his best friend Buddy (Lil Rel Howery) is a security guard in the bank. Everyday they go into work and everyday the bank gets robbed. More than once, mostly. Guy is a cheery person, though, but he does wonder whether life holds more for him than bank robberies. He dreams of the girl he saw once, though Buddy doesn’t believe she exists. Until Guy really does see her, decides to break his routine and talk to her – Millie (Jodie Comer), as he learns. What he doesn’t know, though, is that his world is actually a game and Millie is a player, while Guy is an NPC, a non-player character, who shouldn’t be able to make the decisions he makes. Also, Millie is playing for a particular reason.

Free Guy looked fun, but I didn’t expect it to be as much fun as it was. It’s a film that I think will satisfy gamers, as well as people like me who only have a rudimentary knowledge of the kind of computer games that it plays with. I’d say it’s a full success.

The film poster showing Guy (Ryan Reynolds) from behind, standing on a rooftop overlooking a city skyline full of plans, rockets, hot air balloons, parachutes and an explosion. He has a goldfish bowl with a goldfish in one hand and a disposable coffee cup in the other.

I would say I’m a casual gamer – I’ve dabbed my toes in a few games, and finished a lot of them, but the kind of (probably) GTA-inspired game where you shoot things a lot are really not my thing. That being said, I know roughly how they function and I liked how this was approximated and translated into movie form here. Maybe I would have felt differently if I was more into those kind of games, but for me it worked very well.

What also worked well for me was Taika Waititi’s Antwan, probably the most obnoxious game developer to ever grace the screen – and yet I could still detect the kernel of truth behind his overblown performance, and unfortunately I think it’s a pretty realistic truth. There is a lot of criticism of the games industry that the film just breezes past for the most part, but it’s still notable.

Guy (Ryan Reynolds) and Buddy (Lil Rel Howery) on their way to work.

The real focus, though, was Guy and the events within the games world, as the title implies. And I really enjoyed his journey of self-realization and self-actualization, of becoming more than was intended for him, of making his own choices. It’s a coming-of-person film that doesn’t once bother with the question whether a computer program can be a person, just how it could end up there.

Free Guy isn’t perfect. It’s annoying that the central trio of characters is all white, while pretty much all the characters that surround them are PoC. The explanation of Millie triggering Guy’s changes was cute, but I would have preferred it if the film hadn’t gone back to the tired old “woman inspires man into his self-discovery” trope. But overall the cast’s charm and the film’s laughs outweighed those problems for me, and it wasn’t even close. I had a damn good time with Free Guy.

Millie (Jodie Comer) shooting guns with both hands as she sits on Guy's (Ryan Reynolds) lap while he is driving a motorcycle.

Summarizing: very entertaining.

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