Director: Shawn Levy.
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Jodie Comer, Joe Keery, Lil Rel Howery, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Taika Waititi, Britne Oldford, Camille Kostek, Matty Cardarople, Channing Tatum, Aaron W. Reed.
|"Is that my gun?"|
What would it be like living inside a video game world like Grand Theft Auto?
That's the basic premise behind Free Guy, a visually hyperactive but charmingly thoughtful actioner that puts its cast and special FX department to wonderful use.
Ryan Reynolds plays Guy, an NPC (that's non-player character for the "noobs") in the video game Free City, who starts to yearn for something more than his algorithm-determined life inside a bullet-riddled nightmare. As he begins to break his programming, he becomes entangled with Molotov Girl, the player profile of real world game developer Millie Rusk (Comer), who is in a legal battle with Free City's creator Antwan (Waititi) over allegations Antwan stole the game Millie and her friend Keys (Keery) created.
Free Guy was delayed for so long you probably found yourself wondering whether it would be worth the wait. Thankfully it is. Packed with enough Easter eggs to rival Ready Player One and brimming with the buoyant charm of The Lego Movie, Free Guy is a fun exploration of the desire to break out of the daily grind.
Guy's quest for betterment and for a life outside the norm is reminiscent of Groundhog Day in places, which, coupled with the Grand Theft Auto/Fortnite world he lives in, makes for some great laughs. But it also gives the film its heart and drive. Reynolds plays Guy's naivety with comic ease, and imbues him with a sense of purpose as he tries to find a raison d'etre. His quest for "something more" is genuinely uplifting in places, which is perhaps surprising given the number of explosions in the film.
The added bonus is the film's "real world" story is also cool, as it pokes at the flaws of the video game industry but also gives us two touching characters in Millie and Keys, played earnestly by Comer and Keery. Comer is particularly great in dual roles as Millie/Molotov Girl, while Waititi has a ball chewing the scenery as the film's Big Bad.
Free Guy is a rarity in that it's a hugely successful big budget actioner that doesn't stem from a pre-existing IP. There's plenty of pop culture for it to trade on, helping Free Guy walk a nice line between originality and familiarity. But what really matters is that it's highly enjoyable and wonderfully funny, with almost as much heart as high-octane special FX sequences.