Video game films have had a long and varied history, from the lows of Assassins Creed to the heights of Wreck-It-Ralph. The inconsistency of these types of films makes it hard to be excited when a new one comes around, but Shawn Levy, Ryan Reynolds and Co. take the sub genre to a new level with Free Guy, that leaves for an amusing and wholesome blend of video game culture, and ultimately another summer blockbuster, crowd pleaser that cinema needs right now.
Written by Alex Gilston
Free Guy throws us straight into the action of an open world video game, Free City which is akin to real life game Grand Theft Auto with a few cinematic tweaks, made by corporate overlord Antoine (Taika Waititi). Millie (Jodie Comer) is an indie game developer who suspects Antoine of stealing the code to her and former partner Keys (Joe Keery) video game to make Free City, and Millie spends lots of time immersed in the online game trying to find evidence of Antonine’s wrongdoing. This is where she bumps into Guy (Ryan Reynolds) one of many Non Playable Characters in Free City that act as canon fodder for the thousands of players the game sees every day. Guy is stuck in an infinite loop, doing the same thing day in and day out, and never quite having enough money to buy that pair of shoes he wants. Until he comes across Millie who prompts him to step out of his daily routine, leading to a series of action packed events that is far from an NPC’s normal role within a video game.
Matt Lieberman almost gets the video game to film transferral pitch perfect. Free Guy is filled to the brim with video game references so whether you’re a casual gamer or you’re battle royale crazy there’ll be more than one pleasing moment for video game fans all over. Although the balance is just right some of the rules established in Free City are unbelievable. This is arguably to help with the film's cinematic prowess but is noticeable for sticklers of detail.
The performances help carry Free Guy when it’s lagging video game mastery. It’s intriguing that Ryan Reynolds used his Marvel character, Deadpool, to promote the film a few weeks before it arrived in cinemas as his performance in this film is just that without the swearing. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing though, as a quippy, improvisational Ryan Reynolds, is Ryan Reynolds at his best. Taika Waititi squares up to Reynolds for the title of funniest performance in Free Guy. His signature charm and wit is a perfect fit for his villainous turn as Antoine. Jodie Comer finds herself in her first main role in a Hollywood blockbuster movie and she proves tenfold that she deserves to be there. She’s even given the chance to show off her accent work, which fans of her will be familiar with for her role in BBC America’s Killing Eve.
Underneath the bubbly exterior and countless references, some of which without Disney’s acquisition of 20th Century Studios wouldn’t be there, is a bigger story that takes many strands. The realities of working in the gaming industry, and ultimately doing what makes you happy no matter what life dictates. These are interjected through the film in a way that doesn’t feel preachy. But at the centre of this IP crazed flick is a love story that ends up being heartwarming enough to wrap everything into a neat bow.
At the end of the day Free Guy is just another soulless corporate IP mish mash that’s aim is to please the masses. But other film companies like Warner Bros, and their latest film Space Jam: A New Legacy, could learn a lesson or two in how to make this type of film with a subtlety that eases the palette.