Free Guy (2021)

"So what if I’m not real? Even if I’m not real, this moment is. What’s more real than a person trying to help someone they love?""So what if I’m not real? Even if I’m not real, this moment is. What’s more real than a person trying to help someone they love?"

“So what if I’m not real? Even if I’m not real, this moment is. What’s more real than a person trying to help someone they love?”

Free Guy is the best video game movie ever made; maybe second to Detective Pikachu which also stars Ryan Reynolds. There, the hot take has been said. But in all honesty, is it even a hot take at all? It’s the best not only because it’s not based on an actual videogame that has come before it, but it gets right what every other video game movie has gotten wrong; capturing the spirit of the world that its adapting to screen from an even smaller screen. Every single film in this genre has failed to live up to the expectations the original game has set the bar with only to disappoint the hardcore fans that go out year after year to buy the next version (lord help us if they attempt to adapt Call of Duty, though it’s just another war movie). 

The premise driving Free Guy’s story should be enough to give this film a try. Every sandbox game ever created (Grand Theft AutoAssassin’s Creed World of WarcraftUncharted to name a few) has whats called an NPC or non-playable character that is part of the background and doesn’t have much to do beyond a small interaction. Free Guy puts the NPC’s point of view in the forefront as a character who has his own free will. Guy (Ryan Reynolds) gives more nuance to the title of the film – he has no strings attached to him making him free from his creators to think for himself and not just be a character who doesn’t matter. 


Ryan Reynolds has been everywhere lately. Since Deadpool, he’s popped up in countless franchises besides starting some others in which he plays himself most of the time. He’s Deadpool without the costume and the R rating essentially. With Free Guy, that’s not the case. Yeah, the humor and goofy charm is there but Guy is so much more than the Reynolds schtick that is somewhat feeling played out. This character is charming and sweet with a touch of charisma and heart. Hes not an underdog perse, but the character is easily likeable to root for in his quest to be a great guy.

Like the failed Assassin’s Creed film, Free Guy switches between the “game” world to the real world in which the creators control every aspect of “Free City”. Free City’s code, developed by Walter “Keys” McKeys (Joe Keery) & Millie Rusk (Jodie Comer), is stolen by Antwan (Taika Waititi) to pass as his own intellectual property where he profits the most. All Antwan cares about is the money rolling in to then make the sequel Free City 2 that would bury any evidence of his theft of IP. Millie’s avatar Molotov Girl enlists Guy to help find the evidence of the stolen code for a lawsuit that could revert the rights back to Keys and Millie. In the constant back and forth between the real world and the game world, screenwriters Matt Lieberman and Zak Penn give their characters depth to their motivations. Guy is created to be a love letter to Millie – expressing how Keys truly feels about her. And it works as a romantic plot point between Comer and Keery that focuses more on the game world their characters live in.

Free Guy is what Ready Player One should have been. Ready Player One though based on a novel, heavily is influenced by vintage videogames, movies, and pop culture with a nostalgia-fest of IP thrown at the screen left and right. Free Guy does this too but not at nauseum that even Space Jam: A New Legacy does. The easter eggs that Free Guy has, come at the right moments when least expected that add to the excitement that’s already playing out on screen. Add the cameo’s that coincide with the easter eggs making Free Guy a delight to watch unfold.

It can’t be a Ryan Reynolds starring film without humor and there’s plenty of it to go around. The comedic dialogue is engaging between Guy and Buddy (Lil Rel Howey) and the two have energetic chemistry together. Penn and Lieberman fully nail the theme of friendship that the two share in the several scenes they have together. Penn and Lieberman also have a good understanding of the gaming community – the one that’s on Twitch and YouTube by including 4 different gamers/streamers. It only adds to the authenticity that Free Guy is created with. 

Not all characters are created equal or handled correctly in Free Guy. Antwan doesn’t have nearly any development to make him a sympathetic villain, yet Taika Waititi plays this spoiled Silicon Valley tech CEO in a way that makes up for the lack of any character growth. Taika has the necessary charisma and comedic timing when paired with Joe Keery or Utkarsh Ambudkar who plays Mouser. 

Much can be said about the pandemic era of film. Some studios are releasing films day and date with streaming services that do more harm than good in terms of Box office while Free Guy is lucky enough to survive the Fox/Disney merger and still release in theaters only. Having the theaters only release schedule gives this film the best opportunity to succeed.  And it deserves to succeed because of how delightful it is from premise, to writing to character and execution. 

If Ted Lasso was the show we all needed last year while going through the toughest of times that made us all smile, Free Guy is exactly the type of film we need now that could put the biggest smile – still dealing with a pandemic that won’t go away but has the escapism to get lost in and enjoy the 115-minute ride. Full of heart, sincerity and charm, Free Guy is the best film for a return to theaters.  All around, the performances stand out on top of the world building that Lieberman and Penn create. Who wouldn’t want to visit Free City or even Free Life and hangout with Dude (Ryan Reynolds), Buddy and Guy.? The added love story catapults Free Guy to be the best video game movie to ever come out. 

Written By: Matt Lieberman & Zak Penn

Directed By: Shawn Levy

Cinematography: George Richmond

Music: Christophe Beck

Release Date: August 13, 2021

Running Time: 1 Hour 55 Minutes

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 81%

My Score out of 5: 4 out of 5

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