“Free Guy” was directed by Shawn Levy and was written by Zak Penn & Matt Lieberman. It stars Ryan Reynolds as Guy, a bank teller who discovers he’s actually an NPC inside an open world video game called Free City which will soon go offline. The film also stars Jodie Comer, Joe Keery, Lil’ Rel Howery, and Taika Waititi.
There’s a lot of praise surrounding this film for being an “original” concept. That’s not entirely true. Yes, “Free Guy” isn’t another blockbuster based on an IP (e.g. Marvel or Star Wars) and it does have a unique premise, but many of its aspects are still conventional. For example, we’ve seen movies in which a character meant to be one thing become something else, and we’ve seen movies that place the viewers inside the world of a video game (“Wreck-It Ralph” & “Ready Player One”). However, what is legitimately refreshing about “Free Guy” is that this film feels like it was made by actual filmmakers rather than by a computer program from a major studio. In other words, “Free Guy” is a real (blockbuster) movie.
“Free Guy” was elevated by Shawn Levy’s imaginative direction. Levy made sure that the audience always feels like they’re walking alongside Guy in the chaotic streets of Free City. The world is immersive and legitimately feels like a live-action video game due to the direction and fantastic CGI. Levy also did a great job of making the transition between the real world and the video game world smooth, which is often done poorly in other films similar to this. Almost all the action sequences in “Free Guy” were thrilling and well-filmed, my favorite being the end fight between Guy and a certain NPC character which fully utilized (and satirized) the massive amount of IP owned by Disney without feeling corporate.
The performances in the film were good across the board, especially Reynolds, who brought a lot of charisma and humor to the role. There were moments throughout the film where it was obvious that some of Guy’s dialogue was ad-libbed by Reynolds himself, but I was fine with that since almost all of those lines were funny (and edgy for a PG-13 rating), particularly in a great scene early in the film where Guy buys coffee.
The writing for “Free Guy” was much smarter than I expected it to be. The writers weren’t afraid to actually explore deep themes and character moments such as people finding out their entire lives are fake/programed. There was also a surprisingly clever, well written romance in the film that linked the real world and the video game world together.
A significant complaint I have with the film is that Guy is essentially just the Emmet character from “The Lego Movie,” since he’s got the same quirky, optimistic, and naive personality as Emmet. While I still found plenty of enjoyment and likeability in the Guy character, it was blatantly obvious at times that the writers just copy-and-pasted Lord & Miller’s work from the first Lego Movie. A smaller gripe I had with the film was its terrible use of YouTube and Twitch personalities. The film took real-life streamers from those platforms (e.g. Ninja, Pokimane, Jacksepticeye) and gave them cameos in this film where they would commentate over some of the events they (and the audience) saw, and all of these streamers gave terrible performances. Every single streamer cameo was incredibly cringe-inducing and unnecessary.
“Free Guy” is a fun summer blockbuster that’s surprisingly clever & well written, and it has a lot more emotion & passion inside of it than most modern blockbusters do. Although it takes too many elements from other movies, I strongly recommend this film.