Jodie Comer as Molotov Girl and Ryan Reynolds as Guy in 20th Century Studios’ FREE GUY. Photo by Alan Markfield. © 2020 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved.
Free Guy is the story of Blue Shirt Guy (Ryan Reynolds), a non-playable character in a massively popular online role-playing video game known as Free City: a world where individuals typically commit crimes to enhance their characters. Through an unknown series of events, Guy becomes self-aware and starts evolving. Guy’s subsequent actions begin breaking the core functionality of the game, distressing the owner (Taika Waititi) who takes retaliatory measures to stop Guy at all costs.
What works in Free Guy is the return of the big-budget, original, family summer blockbuster fun. There are so many aspects of Free Guy that come together incredibly well. First, Ryan Reynolds is an absolute delight as a naïve NPC living a violent world he simply can’t understand, but then ultimately won’t accept due to his bright optimism. He gives a performance that will make people genuinely laugh out loud, but also has a surprising amount of depth as Guy embarks on his own personal journey of discovery.
On the topic of characters, Reynolds gets a great deal of strong support, especially from Molotov Girl (Jodie Comer). In Free City, her character is basically an unrivaled empowered action hero searching for some answers; in real life she’s passionately trying to wrong an injustice. In both “roles” Comer absolutely shines. It’s incredibly refreshing to have see a female co-lead in an action adventure whose character isn’t reduced to tropes: Molotov Girl fights everyone with aplomb and she’s never a damsel in distress.
Moving to action, Free Guy has some of the best sequences in a non-franchise movie in recent memory. Leveraging the ability to “break the rules” given the video game environment, director Shawn Levy (Stranger Things, Real Steel) has an absolute blast, creating creative situations, fights, and chase sequences that absolutely pop. The choreography is particularly sharp, as most fights: a) rely minimally on CGI; b) take place in full light; and c) are shot at wide angles so the movements of the actors are clearly visible.
Free Guy is built for a fairly universal audience, but some people may enjoy it more than others based upon their familiarity of video game history. In general, the movie’s themes and characters will be relatable and accessible, but those steeped in the industry will undoubtedly appreciate the abundance of easter eggs, references, and cameos.
Other minor quibbles may bubble up. First, Free Guy does have elements that some may find very “familiar” (but one could easily argue that here they feel fresh and new in this environment). Second, Waititi’s villain is extremely over-the-top. There’s nothing particularly wrong with that, but his performance feels notably more cartoonish and less grounded than everybody else.
Free Guy is brimming with enjoyment, from beginning to end. It truly has everything a person could want from a blockbuster: characters, laughs, thrills, and even excellent music. Highly recommended.
Recommended if you enjoyed: The Lego Movie, The Truman Show, Ready Player One (book)
FINAL GRADE: A