So it seems like Ryan Reynolds can pull off any kind of movie at this point, huh?
Set in an online video game world reminiscent of the Grand Theft Auto series, Free Guy follows Guy (Ryan Reynolds) as he slowly begins to realize he’s living in a place that isn’t exactly what it seems. An NPC, or non-player character, in the sprawling virtual space called Free City, Guy is content living a life of repeated monotony and a kind of blissful obliviousness that everyone around him seems to share. But when a player calling themselves Molotov Girl (Jodie Comer) catches Guy’s eye, his world begins to unravel around him as he soon discovers he’s not “real” in the traditional sense of the word, but is an artificial digital creation instead. What follows is a wild ride full of humor, action, and nerd love as Guy transcends his programming to become something more than he could have ever thought possible.
Video game-related movies always seem to get the shaft when it comes to quality, and while Free Guy is technically a video game movie, it’s not locked into adapting any specific game, allowing the filmmakers to truly run with an idea that’s as crazy as it is fun to explore. Reynolds, as charming and funny as always, is perfectly cast to bring to life a character whose naivety is only trumped by his determination to get to the bottom of Free City’s unusual predicament.
Front-loaded with some great world-building and scenes that hammer home the fun tone of the script, Free Guy does just enough on a base level to make this a movie that works as a mindless popcorn flick, but also has some character stuff going on that’s able to level out a plot that can feel a little stuck at times. And although said character work is hit or miss depending on the person the script chooses to focuses on at the time, it’s the thought that counts, especially considering movies like this very rarely carve out the time for anything of real substance.
Mixing Guy’s shenanigans with some “real world” scenes, the script constantly switches back and forth between Guy and the programmers working at the studio where Free City is made. Becoming integral characters the longer the movie goes on, the movie admittedly does slow a bit when these scenes are happening, but the same humorous tone is well established enough that even these scenes aren’t total bores compared to everything else going on.
Living and dying by its unique idea and the way the filmmakers handle it throughout the film, once the initial opening act, as well as the allure of the admittedly solid hook, wears off, the film falls into a mediocre rut that only comes up for air during an action set piece, or when Reynolds is doing his usual shtick. Explosive and nerdy in equal amounts, the video game angle works well but feels a bit less fleshed out than I would have hoped, still doing enough to give audiences a fun ride while it lasts.
So while I was surprised with the way the story eventually turned out, there’s not enough going on from moment to moment to say that this one is firing on all cylinders. That being said, Free Guy is a hell of a lot of fun, and though it has its flaws, the inevitable sequel will no doubt improve on what is presented here, and for that, this one becomes a whole lot more interesting by the time the credits roll.