Guy used to be just that, a guy,. Every day, he wakes up and says hello to his goldfish, puts on the same set of clothes, gets the same overpriced coffee, and shows up at his job at the bank without fail. And several times each day, he has to get down on the floor when the bank is robbed, which happens quite a lot in Free City, where he lives.
You see, Free City is actually a vast open world video game in which players go around committing acts of crime and violence for fun, and Guy (played by the incomparably funny Ryan Reynolds) is a Non-Player Character (NPC) in that game, programmed to just do the same thing over and over again, every day.
But Guy has a dream – he wants to fall in love. And his fantasy comes through when he meets the hyper-cool Molotov Girl (Jodie Comer), a player who opens his eyes to the truth about his world and inspires him to be more than just, well, a guy.
But Molotov Girl also has her own problems. In real life, her name is Millie and she is out to prove that Free City is based on code stolen from her and her partner Keys (Joe Keery) by the owner of the game, Antwan (Taika Waititi). And the only evidence to prove her case is hidden somewhere within the game itself, which she'll need Guy's help to get.
Video game movies can be tricky, and the long list of failed adaptations of games is proof of that. The best ones, however, tend to be those that don’t try to be a faithful adaptation, such as Sonic The Hedgehog, or those that aren’t based on a specific video game property, like Wreck-It Ralph and now, Free Guy.
However, director Shawn Levy’s biggest achievement here is to make a video game film that doesn’t feel like a video game film. Sure, there are a lot of nods and homages to gaming culture and tropes, but at its heart is a truly heartwarming story about a video game character that just wants to be free to live his own life.
This wouldn’t have been possible without its lead actor, to be honest. Reynolds is perfect as the naive, earnest Guy, nailing the funny moments while also giving the character a lot of heart and an endearing sense of unbound hope. In some ways, he is like a lovesick puppy version of Deadpool, but without the potty-mouth and stabby-stabby tendencies.
The problem with having a lead character as charismatic and attention-grabbing as Reynolds is that the film tends to sag a little whenever he is not on screen. That’s not to say Comer, Keery and Waititi aren’t good, but the ‘real life’ scenes just aren’t as fun as the ones within the game itself. Funnily enough, they actually reminded me of one of those videogame cutscenes that always seems to pop up at the wrong time, just as you were starting to enjoy the game itself.
But that’s just a minor niggle on my part. Other than that, Free Guy is one heck of an enjoyable ride – funny, charming, and loads of fun to watch, especially if you’re a video game fan.
Hilariously charming videogaming fun