Free Guy Pens a Fun, Love-Letter to Gaming With Surprising Philosophical Insight
Brandon Zachary
Free Guy Ryan Reynolds
Free Guy Ryan Reynolds
There's a lot going on in Free Guy beyond the initial premise of a comedy set in a video game world. Directed by Shawn Levy (Stranger Things), Free Guy is nominally a love letter to video games in a silly action-comedy starring Ryan Reynolds. However, the film explores complex topics like morality and the importance of free will throughout the comedy. It's quietly shocking just how heady Free Guy proves to be and it's all the more impressive for it.
Guy (Ryan Reynolds) is just a regular guy living in Free City, a bombastic and violent world where he and his fellow citizens are regularly terrorized and tossed around by the Sunglasses People -- who get away with anything. As his best friend Buddy (Lil Rel Howery) reminds him, people like them don't interact with the Sunglasses People. In reality, the Sunglasses People are players in a massive videogame. Schmucks like Guy and Buddy are just lines of 1's and 0's created to populate their world with digital punching bags. That's true until Guy falls in love with Molotov (Jodie Comer) and finds himself challenging not just his physical limitations but the limitations of his entire world when he gets a pair of sunglasses to impress her.
Free Guy Jodie Comer Ryan Reynolds
Free Guy Jodie Comer Ryan Reynolds
On an initial level, Free Guy is a fun enough mash-up of The Truman Show and video game culture. The reveal of Guy being a Non-Playable Character who is given access to new powers leads to some strong slapstick comedy that largely works thanks to Reynolds and Howery's natural charm and enthusiasm. But, as the film progresses, it dives into Molotov's real-life counterpart, Millie -- a game designer seeking proof that Free City creator Antwan (Taika Waititi) stole the creation she and former best friend Keys (Joe Kerry) designed years earlier. Along the way, her advice to Guy ends up not just affecting how he himself grows but how Free City changes around him -- leading to changes both within the game and the world outside it.
Free Guy reveals itself to be surprisingly concerned with the definition of life and the importance of choice and destiny. Revelations about Keys' game design come to life thanks to Guy's willingness to go off-script. The film's creators use this setup to dive into more cerebral concepts, with the cast proving more than prepared to delve into them with shocking gusto. Reynolds and Comer are absolutely perfect in their roles, especially as the film becomes increasingly willing to consider the ramifications of their discoveries and hands them more dramatic elements. There's one moment that's even arguably one of the year's single best shots -- a quietly stunning visualization of the beauty of choice.
Luckily, Free Guy never stops being a fun action-comedy. Both the action and plot move quickly. Reynolds grounds the film with his performance that adjusts easily between dramatic and comedic moments. While many of the other characters -- like Antwan and Keys' co-worker Mouser (Utkarsh Ambudkar) -- feel a little one-dimensional, the actors turn in impressive performances, especially Waititi, who steals the relatively few scenes he's in.
At times, Free Guy feels like a slightly more adult take on The LEGO Movie. The film is full of cameos, easter eggs, and comedy. But, there are surprisingly strong scenes that meditate on the nature of choice, love, and what makes life worth living. There's plenty to enjoy about Free Guy as an action film, but it's rare that a blockbuster like this genuinely feels like it has something deeper to say about the world -- the combination of this makes it a must-see film.