Free Guy Review

Free Guy
Bank-teller Guy (Ryan Reynolds) has an everyday routine: wake up, talk to goldfish, drink coffee, go to work. But he’s about to be shaken out of it, when he falls for a mysterious stranger in sunglasses (Jodie Comer), then starts to become aware that he is, in fact, a video-game character in a world that doesn't exist.

by Nick de Semlyen |
Updated on
Release Date:

03 Jul 2020

Original Title:

Free Guy

There’s a moment in Free Guy where the hero, Guy, locked in battle with a ’roided-up clone of himself, does something unexpected. Something which, in fact, could only have happened after Disney’s takeover of 20th Century Fox in 2019. It's a fun, Ready Player One-esque moment, which will very likely please crowds. But when you stop and think about it for five seconds, that something actually makes scant sense within the logic of the narrative. It's emblematic of a movie that is eager to please, throwing all manner of eye-sizzling VFX at the screen, but that doesn't really hang together, even as you’re watching it.

Free Guy

Think a Truman Show riff, with glibness instead of heart. Rather than the man trapped in a TV show played by Jim Carrey, we have Guy, played by fellow Canadian Ryan Reynolds, a non-playable character stuck in an open-world video game. Parallels between the two films include a destiny-fulfilling trip across a body of water, and oft-repeated “good morning” catchphrases. But where Carrey's character got an impactful arc, Guy is less easy to care about. Although he’s meant to be a bland, generic everyman slowly breaking out of his loop, he’s actually a wise-cracking snark-machine from the start, dispensing such Deadpoolian zingers as, “It’s like my tongue had a baby with a sunrise.” Reynolds’ schtick sits uneasily with the material, not least as the plot progresses and the comedy starts to jostle for space with existential angst.

Jodie Comer's badass nerd gives the movie some sparks – something in short supply elsewhere.

The world of the game, ‘Free City’, is fun and buzzy enough — a jacked-up Grand Theft Auto-style free-for-all where the players, wearing sunglasses, terrorise the NPCs going around their daily circuits. Director Shawn Levy, veteran of Real Steel and the Night At The Museum films, knows how to marshal VFX and make Jodie Comer, as hacker Molotov Girl, look cool as she leaps around with two Glocks blazing. But whenever the story requires cutting across to the real world, as it frequently does, à la Ready Player One, momentum starts to stall. Frankly, the story’s big question — will the programmers played by Comer and Joe Keery find the evidence to prove Free City’s overlord has stolen their zeroes and ones? — isn’t massively compelling. And even Taika Waititi, as said overlord, clad in an outfit that's half Napoleon Bonaparte, half Hoxton poseur, struggles to muster up laughs as he struts around bellowing at people, let down by thin material.

Comer, at least, impresses in her big Hollywood debut, toggling between British and American accents and looking at ease no matter how bananas things get around her. Her badass nerd gives the movie some sparks. Alas, that’s something in short supply elsewhere, with plentiful eye-candy but little to care about beneath the pixelated surface.

Not quite ‘Ready Player One Star’, but this is an odd duck: a Black Mirror-ish concept played for laughs, which ends up getting tangled up in its own code.
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