At long last the new Ryan Reynolds feature “Free Guy” has arrived and is a very enjoyable, funny, and touching film and one of the best video game-themed films ever made.
The film was due to be released in July of 2020 but had three release date changes due to the ongoing Pandemic, and started production under 20th Century Fox and continued under Disney after their acquisition of the studio.
Reynolds stars as Guy; a very friendly Bank Teller who has a very ritualized life of getting up; getting his morning coffee on his way to work, and chatting with his friend Buddy (Lil Rey Howery); at work, and enduring a bank robbery in between serving customers.
Guy likes his life but hopes to meet a woman he can share it with but thinks that may not be in the cards for him. Things change when a mysterious lady enters his life. Buddy tells him that since she wears sunglasses she is off-limits to him but when Buddy breaks from the norm and takes glasses from a potential robber; his entire world literally changes.
Once donning the glasses; Guy sees the world as it really is and soon comes to learn that he is in an Open-World video game. When he encounters Millie (Jodie Comer); again; Guy learns that in order to be taken seriously he has to get some experience and level up. Millie believes Guy is just another player and Guy has no idea that he is simply a character in the game and that his world is populated with players. Guy is also clueless to the fact that characters wearing glasses are actually flesh and blood players which is why his friends and other characters in the game limit their interactions with them.
While this alone would be a great setting; the film has a secondary story in that Millie is trying desperately to locate some missing data in the game which she believes will prove that the owner of the game; an egotistical narcissist named Antoine (Taika Waititi); has stolen from her and her former coder Keys (Joe Keery and used it in the game’s engine.
Antoine is more concerned about money and the pending sequel and is less than thrilled with Millie’s efforts as he knows what she is after and the long-term consequences of the truth coming to light. Meanwhile, Guy has taken it on himself to become a hero in the game and becomes known as “Blue Shirt Guy” and soon becomes a social media sensation for his heroic exploits which counter the usual carnage and mayhem that in-game players create for other players and NPC.
As his exploits draw him back to Millie; they team up to complete her missions and in doing so; Guy falls deeply for her and he continues to evolve beyond his programming while each being totally unaware of the reality of the other individual.
While the film has nods to prior films like “Tron”, “The Truman Show”, “Ready Player One”, and other films; it is done in a way that is refreshing and original as the leads and cast are very enjoyable and easy to support.
There is an abundance of visual effects but they work with the characters to frame and enhance the story and world they interact in versus being the focal point, unlike some movies that come across as an elaborate FX reel vs a developed film.
There are numerous cameos in the film and some of the characters are also voiced by famous people so audiences will want to watch the credits to get the full list as it is impressive.
While it does have some good action sequences; the film has plenty of heart and Reynolds is very likable as Guy and a real pleasure to watch his character evolve as the story unfolds.
“Free Guy” was a very enjoyable mix of humor and action and is not only one of the best video game-themed films ever made, but one of the best movies of 2021 which was enjoyable from start to finish.
4.5 stars out of 5