Most mainstream Hollywood films these days are geared towards the franchise, whether they’re just one film in a line of many like how superhero films are used to continually set up the next or films like the Ready Player One or the recent Space Jam: A New Legacy where filmmakers pack as many references and cameos as possible around a lackluster plotline. It’s less about the story and more about being a part of an inside joke or understanding a reference. Free Guy is a video game film that isn’t based on any one single game but all the concepts and themes behind them as it delivers an entertaining and surprisingly complex story while still being packed with surprises that add to the fun rather than just being there to be seen. Like a good video game, Free Guy gives audiences a colorful, jam-packed world you won’t want to leave.
Anything is possible in the open world video game of Free City where players can take on missions, collect a variety of gear, or just spend their time exploring the street and interacting with the various non-playable characters who populate the city. Guy (Ryan Reynolds) is one of those NPCs who works as a bank teller. Every day he does the exact same thing; he wakes up, puts on the same khaki pants and blue shirt, and goes to work where there’s a 100% chance he’ll be involved in a bank robbery. For Guy, this is just the life he knows. He has no idea that he’s a character in a video game following a coded path of events. That all changes when he runs into the player MolotovGirl (Jodie Comer) and all of a sudden starts to develop feelings that drive him to break free from his loop, causing a cascading sequence of events that’ll have massive repercussions for both the video game world and real world.
Free Guy embraces its video game origins with its bombastic open world where anything and everything is possible. Well, for the players at least. Guy and the rest of the NPCs in Free City are blissfully unaware of how ridiculous their world is. To them bank robberies, police chases, and shootouts are just part of their normal lives. At its heart, Free Guy is about breaking free from the cycle and making your own decisions. For Guy, that means going against his written code. Him slowly coming to the realization that he doesn’t have to be just a bank teller who gets robbed every day but he can be like one of the “sunglasses people” aka players is kinda heartwarming in a Ted Lasso way. He doesn’t want to run and gun and blow everything up. He’s a NPC so to him, the people who populate the city aren’t just random no names; they’re his friends and neighbors like Buddy (Lil Rel Howery). Free Guy is more about the little guy.
At the same time, the film also explores the outside world as it follows MolotovGirl’s human player Millie (Jodie Comer) as she attempts to infiltrate the company behind the game. She was a game developer herself alongside her partner Keys (Joe Keery) but their game was bought out by Antwan (Taika Waititi) and then buried and never released. Millie believes that Antwan stole the code and used it to build Free City and is looking for the code within the game as proof. The real world portions of the film can get a little tiresome if I’m being honest, especially when compared to the excitement and wacky nature of the game world. The balance between the two isn’t quite there, and it can take the wind out of its sails momentarily. Taika Waititi’s over-the-top performance as the villain of the film is perfect, however.
Free Guy is all packed full of fun surprises whether it’s an object pulled from another game or pop culture reference, or a brief cameo. There’s so much to take in as every scene is full of little easter eggs to be found. Sometimes it can be overwhelming, but Free Guy always manages to bring it around again and essentially reset the mood before it ever becomes too much. That’s what Free Guy does best. Despite how over-the-top and ridiculous scenes can play out, it always comes back around to feeling grounded and real.
Free Guy is some of the most fun you’ll have at the theaters this summer. It brings the best of the video game world to the big screen and delivers plenty of laughs and plenty of action. What more could you possibly ask for?