Review: 'Free Guy' Boots Up for Laughter, Heart

by Padraic Maroney

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday September 28, 2021

Ryan Reynolds in 'Free Guy'
Ryan Reynolds in 'Free Guy'  (Source:20th Century Studios)

Admit it, after seeing "Wreck-it Ralph" you never looked at an arcade game the same again. While those films showed us that video game characters have a whole secret world when they aren't being played, the new film "Free Guy" takes the conceit one step further. What if the characters in the game were able to develop their own thoughts and feelings within the game?

Guy (Ryan Reynolds) lives in Free City, which is both the name of the town and the "Grand Theft Auto"-type game his world exists inside. He has a seemingly ordinary life filled with constant robberies at the bank he works, bubble gum ice cream, and yearning to finally be able to buy the new pair of sneakers he eyes up every morning. Yet, he feels unfulfilled with his routine life and lack of a partner. All of that changes after he meets the mysterious Molotov Girl (Jodie Comer, "Killing Eve") on the street when he hears her hum along to his favorite Mariah Carey song. He begins to break free of what he's programmed to do, and develops real emotions. What he doesn't know, however, is that she is a programmer in the real world searching for traces of her game that she believes was illegally incorporated into "Free City."

Back in teh '90s, when the internet and technology was something that scared people — as opposed to now, when it truly is something scary — there was a wave of techno-thrillers filled with jargon that made no sense to the average viewer. Almost all of them were forgettable, and a lot of the technobabble went right over the heads of most of the audience. "Free Guy" is able to easily explain the more technical aspects of creating a video game and coding, so that even the least tech-savvy gaymer will be able to follow what is happening.

Reynolds is basically playing a variation on the role he usually plays. The difference this time is that he's clueless about the world, leading to a childlike wonderment. Adding to his signature charm is the cast that has been built around him, all of whom have an easy chemistry with each other. Taika Waititi, as the nefarious video game developer that Comer's character is battling, is a glaring exception. Even though his character is meant to be over the top, Waititi never quite seems to be acting with his co-stars. Instead, he is acting at them, with few of the actors able to quite match him.

The movie deals a lot with the idea of isolation and wanting more from life, which is probably more relevant now, after having lived through a pandemic, than if it had come out when originally intended. In between all the laughs and a couple of well-placed cameos, the film also has a lot of heart.

"Free Guy" has the same irrelevant vibe that audiences have come to expect from Reynolds' movies. He offers a more family-friendly version here than in "Deadpool," but the shtick is the same. Yet, he is so likable that it continues to work. Add in the rest of the cast, and you some hearty laughs; you, too, will be rooting for Guy to break free of his digital shackles.

"Free Guy" is available digitally today.