Free Guy (2021) Movie Review

Ryan Reynolds had to grow on me, but he did. And considering the late 2010s seemed to be his big A-list breakthrough, I’m grateful I just reached the age where I became interested in what he generally works with. Reynolds tends to play characters with hilarious aplomb as he survives and laughs his way through horrors.

Reynolds plays what starts off as someone so plain, he makes Emmet from The Lego Movie look like Indiana Jones (well, both characters get more adventurous.) His name is Guy (and if you have a rough memory, Reynolds funnily enough also plays someone with that name in the Croods movies) and we watch him greet his goldfish and munch cereal in a house with no personality whatsoever. He’s a bank teller…at a bank. Who says to not have a good day…but a great day. Yeah, I can feel you guys getting bored.

Here’s something more captivating. Something Guy doesn’t realize, or any of the people in Free City, is their world is made up of zeroes and ones. Otherwise the trash cans wouldn’t be filled only with one exact type of coffee cup, same size and everything. They’re in an online videogame called Free City, and Guy is an NPC (non-player character for the noobs of gaming and programming. A character who you don’t play as and was coded in to serve one single purpose, or two.) Guy ends up coming across this sunglasses-wearing warrior named Molotov, and something about her causes Guy to all of a sudden question why he has to stay down as his bank’s getting robbed. Why not see if he can do something? Why not see what she’s up to? All of a sudden he’s getting these thoughts that are away from his instincts, and the people he’s grown up with, or is pretty sure he’s grown up with, are giving him funny looks. Little does he know there’s some shady business in the real world, and he’s become something of a true kind.

Only two and a half years ago did this sort of thing become the twist in the Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway noir film Serenity. I will admit it was kind of positively wacky finding out the lives of these characters were all fake and coded, but the wooden performances, perhaps even told to be in the form of NPCs, and not doing enough with said twist made the whole thing end with a big feeling of misjudgment. Free Guy takes itself less seriously and with more self-awareness, knowing we’re going to scratch our heads before we end up laughing ourselves silly as we see everyone non-reactive and seemingly in their own minds as explosions, gunfights and robberies take place from every corner.

In most video-games, it’s a lot easier to be a killer than a rescuer. It’s harder to lay down for a few seconds to heal someone’s wounds or to open a locked door to help someone escape, because you’re putting yourself in the line of fire. And most video games aren’t designed with all this in mind. So it’s easy to buy the concept of Guy being a saviour would resonate in the gaming world.

I’d say the best part of Free Guy is how it satirizes the gaming industry and fanbase without condescension. It pokes fun at how unrealistic some video games end up getting, and then expresses it knows why it’s so fun to keep returning to these Ascii universes. And I enjoyed the story of fighting against a big bloke out for money and not wanting any credit away from him. It’s an easy and relatable gimmick for all to relate.

The fun dips a little at a somewhat sappy conclusion, the film’s dopey antagonist makes it a few steps below the masterpiece of Ready Player One, and it’s not really made clear if the day always resets on Guy and the NPCs as well as their memories and how things get repaired after getting blown up, but Free Guy is simply plain fun with a bit of insight into both the culture of gamers and young developers who want to use their art to bring what they love to life. Come to think of it, that was sappy to say too. It’s something Guy would probably say. He rubbed off on me a bit, I suppose.

If you like this, I’d try Ready Player One and the Jumanji movies

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