Guy (Ryan Reynolds) leads a mundane and repetitive but content enough existence working as a bank teller in the violent and crime-ridden Free City. One day, he meets a girl (Jodie Comer) and decides to try to bring some freshness to his life, including taking on assignments and playing the hero around the city to impress her. What Guy doesn’t realise is that he’s a non-player character (NPC) in a video game and out in the real world, Free City is facing imminent threat…
You’ll probably get the likeness to ‘Ready Player One’ is in their both being set in games (though the world, or OASIS, in Steven Spielberg’s movie is far more expansive) with those worlds coming under threat and requiring saving in the movie’s final act. The references to ‘The Truman Show’ in ‘Free Guy’ are vast, including the fact that once he starts to break from routine, it throws everyone around him off. Heck, Guy even has a catchphrase – “Don’t have a good day, have a great day” – that is all too similar to Truman’s “Good afternoon, good evening and goodnight.”
Ryan Reynolds is perhaps more Ryan Reynolds than ever in this movie. But don’t expect something akin to ‘Deadpool’. This is PG-13, sanitised Ryan Reynolds with only one F-bomb dropped in the movie, and in spite of Free City being violent and murderous (think ‘Vice City’, essentially), there’s no bloodshed. It’s a shame because one is starting to tire of the Reynolds routine we’ve seen time and again, particularly when the actor’s comedic range is limited because he’s been put on a family-friendly leash. The highlight of his performance is when he plays another game character, Dude, and we won’t give too much away, but suffice to say, he gets a lot more laughs in his short screen time than Guy.
The rest of the ensemble is great, although again, knowing the range of Taika Waititi, it feels like he’s holding back. ‘Killing Eve’s Jodie Comer and ‘Stranger Things’ star Joe Keery deliver as expected while Lil Rey Howery (‘Get Out’) is great fun as Guy’s best mate, Buddy. There are a few CGI scenes and designs of note, but it just doesn’t feel as impressive or inspired as ‘Ready Player One’.
The aforementioned kiddie-ish nature of the tone and humour is more frustrating than anything because you feel that there was a funnier, more boundary-pushing movie here than we ended up with. Still, ‘Free Guy’ is good fun, includes some interesting commentary on gaming and gamers, and has a couple of exquisite cameos that will have you in stitches. It is worth a watch – it’s just more fun when Reynolds gets to be bolder.