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Film Review: ‘Free Guy’ is a High-Concept Event Movie Done Right

20th Century Studios

There are so many ways in which Free Guy could have turned out to be a disappointment. High concept summer fare like this, more often than not, it’s a letdown that wastes its premise. Here, the concept is so rife with possibilities, it wouldn’t have been crazy to naturally assume that the film was going to fall short. Luckily, however, the movie manages to make really strong use of its concept and never wastes its own potential. In crafting a creative and fun blockbuster, those involved in Free Guy have made one of the summer’s bigger surprises. If you like a big Hollywood flick but wish they had more creativity to them, this is going to thrill you.

Free Guy is essentially The Truman Show and Grand Theft Auto merged together into a Reynold Reynolds action-comedy. It may sound messy, but trust me, it works. Some of it is due to the charisma and likability of Reynolds, but it’s also the pure imagination on display. One element of the film is far weaker than the rest, but that’s just what holds this back from being something even more terrific.

20th Century Studios

Guy (Reynolds) lives in Free City, working as a bank teller. Well, living is a strong term, as he’s a non player character (or NPC) in a massive online video game called Free City. Each day, he and his co-worker and best friend Buddy (Lil Rel Howery) do their thing, playing their small part in the world, obvious to their reality. While he’s happy, he does wish for more, especially in terms of romance. One day, he passes a character known as Molotov Girl (Jodie Comer), and something clicks. Suddenly, he’s demonstrating free will and confusing everyone. In the real world, employees at the game company Keys (Joe Keery) and Mouser (Utkarsh Ambudkar) think it’s just a troublemaking player and try to eliminate him. However, Keys’ former partner Millie (Comer), realizes that he’s an NPC, based on programming the two initially designed. They’re stunned, while Guy is just evolving, committing good acts in a city full of crime, hoping to impress Molotov Girl.

This bliss is short lived, as the owner of the game company, Antoine (Taika Waititi), is planning to erase all of the Free City characters for the sequel. Keys and Millie quickly realize that this will destroy the A.I. they’ve created. Needing to let Guy know the truth of his existence (or “existence”), Millie and her character break the news to him. He’s thrown off, as you might imagine, but it sets into motion Guy and Molotov Girl fighting to save Free City and its citizens. I won’t say more, but it’s so much fun to witness.

20th Century Studios

Ryan Reynolds may end up being best known for Deadpool when all is said and done, but this is one of his best characters. Guy is so pure and likable, it’s impossible not to fall in love with him. Reynolds just makes it even easier. While he’s at home being an action hero, Jodie Comer impresses with her kick-ass chops. Comer and Reynolds have a nice chemistry too, elevating the romantic elements that are far less interesting than the satirical ones. Joe Keery and his subplot aren’t quite as successful, but he and Utkarsh Ambudkar riff off of each other well. Lil Rel Howery does his normal sidekick schtick, and it’s fine, while Taika Waititi is both annoying as well as funny in his villain role. This film is all about Comer and especially Reynolds, through and through, so their success is what you easily focus in on.

Director Shawn Levy, along with writers Matt Lieberman and Zak Penn, bring so much imagination to the movie. They drop the ball a bit with the romantic elements that crop up, but it’s not the main focus, so that’s easy to forgive. Free Guy always has something to look at, so the creatives here deserve a huge pat on the back. In particular, the look of Free City is captivating. Plus, two moments during the climax are as crowd-pleasing as anything you’ll see this year, blockbuster-wise.

Free Guy is a blast. Again, it’s so easy for high concept films like this to be a letdown, wasting the premise and promise, but this one decidedly does not. I had a ton of fun with it and you almost certainly will too. This is pure summer movie entertainment, through and through. Check it out this weekend and you’ll more than likely agree!

SCORE: ★★1/2

Written by Joey Magidson

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