Free Guy Is a Fun Videogame Tinged Adventure That’s Smarter Than That Sounds

Dept. of Free City Stories


When is a videogame movie not a videogame movie?

When it takes the tropes and aesthetics of videogames and tries to fashion them into something new, and hopefully different. Free Guy is the latest entry in a line of movies stretching all the way back to Tron and The Last Starfighter, through Brainscan and up to Wreck-it-Ralph, that take a videogame setting as a jumping off point for a much bigger story.

In Free Guy’s case, the game is the online action shooter Free City, a mix of Grand Theft Auto Online (urban mayhem) and Fortnite (licensed tie-ins and goofy outfits). While players rampage through the city to their hearts content, Free Guy asks what about the residents that “live” there? What of the Non Player Characters (NPCs) that populate the city and make it feel “lived in?” What does a normal day look like to them while players are tearing through the city in a variety of vehicles and engaging in shootouts every few feet?

In Free Guy, one of them, in the form of Ryan Reynolds’ nice guy bank teller… um… Guy… decides that he wants more from life than just being a bystander to multiple murders as he walks to work and gets run over/held up multiple times per day by players.

The reason for this? “Molotovgirl,” a player in the form of Jodie Comer, who has links to the company behind the game, Soonami (sic), and its CEO “Antwan” (sic), as well as one of the employers there Keys (Joe Keery). How are all these linked to Guy’s awakening?

Watch the movie to find out.

Insert Disc 2

Seriously, that’s all I’m going to say about the plot because thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic and the extended marketing period for Free Guy, some of the films better gags were ruined for me. Suffice to say, if you’ve any interest in videogames, and the film’s concept, and you haven’t yet been spoiled, it’s worth going to see Free Guy.

Reynolds is his usual devilishly charming self and, in a nice twist, he takes a different approach than expected to improving the lives of his fellow NPCs, one that doesn’t require ever escalating levels of violence. Not that Free Guy is a pacifist movie. It perfectly skewers the violence inherent in most online games while indulging in it, capturing the look and feel of the biggest online games.

It’s a smart step in a movie filled with them. The references to players’ behaviour in online games is spot on, with even small visual gags in the background landing on target.

Not quite as smart are the elements that feel ripped from The LEGO Movie (even the coffee thing, which is weird), or WALL-E, but director Shawn Levy and writers Matt Lieberman and Zak Penn redeem themselves by coming up with an actual reason for Guy’s awakening that isn’t just “magic” and actually ties into an over arching plot.

Lil Rel Howery should also be congratulated for delivering a cute, genuinely sweet performance as Guy’s best friend, Buddy, making up for his incredibly annoying performance in a similar role in Fatherhood.

Sorry, Your Princess Is In Another Castle

Less successful is Taika Waititi as the film’s villain. Every great video game hero needs a nemesis of equal stature. Mario has Bowser, Sonic has Eggman/Robotnik, but as Guy’s adversary Antwan, the usually reliable Waititi failed to deliver. His antics may not be all that far removed from real world videogame executives, but I found most of his shtick to be intensely annoying rather than funny or threatening.

I really didn’t need cameos from today’s “top streamers” either. I don’t wish career misfortune on any of them but unless Fox/Disney plan to issue regular updates to the film, like bug patches for a game, these sections are sure to age about as well as Superman 64 cartridges.

Aside from these slightly annoying concerns, Free Guy is an enjoyable, if light, romp. It may not have tickled my funny bone as much as I’d hoped, but it lands higher on the “videogame-related-movie” high score table than its elevator pitch would suggest. 

If you have any interest in the concept watch Free Guy as soon as possible, before someone ruins the best jokes for you.

Free Guy is out in Malaysian cinemas on Thursday, October 14.

Irish Film lover lost in Malaysia. Co-host of Malaysia's longest running podcast (movie related or otherwise ) McYapandFries and frequent cryer in movies. Ask me about "The Ice Pirates"

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