Film review: Free Guy (2021), directed by Shawn Levy
tl;dr: Highly entertaining film.
Guy (Ryan Reynolds) is a bank clerk in Free City. Every day begins, progresses and ends in much the same way. He wakes up, picks up his coffee from the local coffee shop, goes to work, chats with his best friend Buddy (Lil Rel Howery), the bank’s security guard, as they’re doing the customary cowering on the floor during the daily robbery. One day he comes across a woman humming his favourite song, and suddenly he decides to change things up a bit. Maybe he’ll order a different coffee today, maybe he won’t cower on the floor during the robbery. Maybe he’ll discover there’s a whole world previously hidden to him, and you can game it in order to level up and get better.
The problem is of course that he’s only meant to be an NPC (non-player character) in an open-world massively multiplayer online computer game (something not unlike Grand Theft Auto?), and people in the real world are starting to take notice of “Blue Shirt Guy” – including a couple of programmers, Keys (Joe Keery) and Mouser (Utkarsh Ambudkar), at Soonami Games. Their boss, Antwan (Taika Waititi), is focused on bringing out the game’s sequel and Blue Shirt Guy is really not playing the game right – and somehow they can’t seem to find a player to ban.
Caught in the middle is Mille (Jodie Comer), an old friend of Keys who also used to work for Soonami. She’s in Free City as Molotovgirl trying to find evidence that Antwan stole code from her and Keys, and she happens to share a favourite song with that “Blue Shirt Guy” …
This film is a lot of fun. Ryan Reynolds is a great comedic actor, and makes Guy’s wide-eyed innocence work. Taika Waititi plays an eccentric games company boss like he’s born to do it. There’s hardly a dull moment, which is nice – it made me forget sitting in a car in the middle of nowhere. Jodie Comer has received a lot of praise for her role in Killing Eve, but this might be the first time I’ve seen her in anything. This is perhaps not the kind of film to really highlight acting talent, but I look forward to seeing her in more things.
Do you need to be a keen gamer to “get” the film? No. I’ve played some games, so I got some of the gaming tropes in there, but I don’t play a lot of games. My husband probably got all of them, because he is a keen gamer, and has been for years. Even my completely non-gamer mother-in-law enjoyed the film as an action-packed comedy, so it worked for different generations and levels of gaming background.
It’s an enjoyable film. They’ve even roped in a number of YouTube gaming streamers for flavour! It’s laugh-out-loud funny, and delightfully dark in spots. Will definitely watch again … on TV at home, not in a drive-in.
5 out of 5 sweet, sweet fantasies.