Video game movies rarely turn out to be any good, especially if they’re about video games. An example of a recent good movie might be 2018’s Ready Player One, while a rather bad one would be something like 2015’s Pixels starring Adam Sandler. Fortunately, Free Guy is more like Ready Player One, but one that’s an action-packed comedy starring Ryan Reynolds in the leading role.
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 follows a guy named Guy, who is an NPC in a massive online game titled Free City that’s a lot like Fortnite fused with GTA Online. There’s a reason why the headline of my review states that Free Guy feels like a live-action Lego Movie. Just like Chris Pratt’s Emmet in 2014’s The Lego Movie, Guy is perfectly satisfied with repeating the same old routine every single day. This means living his life oblivious of his role of being a passive NPC in a video game, getting the same coffee every morning, and doing the same thing at work every day (he works at a bank that gets robbed daily).
All of this changes when Guy crosses paths with Millie (Jodie Comer), a high-level player who’s actually a game developer who is playing Free City only to look for proof that the code for a game she co-developed was stolen and reused in Free City by the game’s lead developer, Antwan (Taika Waititi). Meeting Millie spurs Guy to start doing things differently, just like how The Lego Movie‘s Emmet did after he met Wyldstyle.
Ryan Reynolds is likeable and charming as the naive and overly-optimistic Guy, as he practically brings out the family-friendly Deadpool in him without the R-rating, though some jokes do have a “dirty” tinge to them (in one joke, he compares the joy of drinking fresh coffee to losing his virginity in his mouth).
Free Guy also features cameos from real-life streamers like Jacksepticeye, Ninja, and Pokimane. Older viewers will probably find including them in this movie to be cringe-worthy and even immersion-breaking. However, it will likely play well to younger viewers, who make up the majority of these streamers’ fans anyway. There are also non-streamer cameos and one huge one that will definitely incite a strong reaction from viewers (I won’t reveal who it is, of course).
The rest of the main supporting cast is great, especially Taika Waititi’s Antwan and Jodie Comer’s Millie. Guy and Millie’s relationship forms the emotional crux of the movie, while Antwan is a sleazy and douchey antagonist who viewers will love to hate. He’s significantly over-the-top and evil, but he wouldn’t be out of place in Apple TV’s Mythic Quest (which also features a video game developer setting).
What makes Free Guy a good watch is how it captures certain elements of gaming, and I’m not just talking about easter eggs. Some of these elements will only be understood by gamers while flying over the head of general non-gamers who aren’t familiar with video games. Most of these happen in the background of the movie in the form of subtle gags, including players in Free City doing emote dances, tea-bagging their kills, and a lot more.
The movie’s climax is an explosive and fan-pleasing one, but perhaps too overt and on-the-nose with its pop culture references. Still, if you like Ryan Reynolds and his brand of humour, and if you’re a gamer, you’d probably find a lot to enjoy in Free Guy. It’s a veritable popcorn movie you’ll enjoy & slightly remember.
Final Score: 70/100
We attended a press screener of Free Guy courtesy of The Walt Disney Company Malaysia.
Free Guy is slated to premiere on 14 October 2021 in Malaysian cinemas.