Free Guy (2021)
Director: Shawn Levy
Screenwriter: Matt Lieberman, Zak Penn
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Joe Keery, Jodie Comer, Taika Waititi
Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool) stars in the delayed Disney-distributed video game-based comedy Free Guy as the titular Guy, a non-player character (NPC) within the fictional video game Free City who, after living the same day over and over, develops his own personality and goes on a mission to free himself and his fellow NPCs from the confines of the game, all with a little help from a player’s avatar.
Free Guy is a modern take on an old-school adventure film with its unlikely hero finding himself in a fight for something he believes in whilst being surrounded by comedic friends and falling for a girl who is out of his reach.
Reynolds’ performance as Guy is exactly what viewers will be expecting from him: his bright and smiley face fills the screen, and his goofy, comedic exterior pulls the whole film together. Here, his comedy value falls a bit flat in the film’s momentum-losing second act, but with the support of his surrounding cast and a quippy, dialogue-heavy and intelligent script, he manages to carry the film through moment after moment that will have you belly laughing through to the credits.
Alongside Reynolds’ central narrative, Free Guy also features a sub-plot starring ‘Stranger Things’ actor Joe Keery as Keys. It is an interesting and original side story that maintains momentum and doesn’t detract from the focus of the movie. Keys and Millie (Jodie Comer, ‘Killing Eve’) are both fresh-faced and relatable for younger audiences, whilst still giving memorable and noteworthy performances. Jojo Rabbit director Taika Waititi’s portrayal of Antwon is different to anything we’ve seen him do to date, and his growing diversity as an actor does not go unnoticed.
The work behind the camera, led by Cheaper by the Dozen and Night At the Museum director Shawn Levy – who has recently had a stint in charge of direction on Netflix hit ‘Stranger Things’ – more than holds its own, ensuring that explorations of themes regarding isolation and loneliness (which are of course relevant to many people watching this film following months of social distancing) are presented well if not necessarily with all the originality that some of this film’s direct competitors may have offered. In balancing tones, Free Guy effectively brings touching moments alongside out-and-out comedy, and is therefore a film very much in the mould of Levy’s earlier directorial efforts.
Much like other films that base themselves on the internal workings of a video game, such as Ready Player One (2018) and the more recent Space Jam: A New Legacy (2021), Free Guy features a number of Easter eggs for keen-eyed viewers to tuck into. The film, originally put together under the banner of 21st Century Fox (ahead of Disney’s purchase of the studio in 2019), takes full advantage of its links to Disney, offering the inclusions of many of the brand’s successful intellectual properties and references to even more.
Despite its silly nature and the film being confined within a rather predictable plot, Free Guy is going to be a blockbuster comedy that fans return to time and time again when in need of some light-hearted relief. Ryan Reynolds holds the whole thing together with his charming if predictable Reynolds-isms, which remain as beloved as ever years into his run as Deadpool, and alongside surprise cameos and moments of clever comedic timing, he ensure that Free Guy will be a fun summer hit for young and old alike.