Free Guy Review

Let’s talk about Free Guy.

Video games and movies have a weird relationship. Movies adapted from video games were known for a long time to be the worst of the worse, the films that plunged to new levels of awfulness. But recently, things have picked up in that department with the likes of Detective Pikachu and Sonic the Hedgehog being pretty decent. Films heavily influenced by video games are another matter. They’ve always been around since The Last Starfighter and Tron based their plots around them. They’ve usually been far better than the films directly based on video games though that isn’t always the case. Pixels existed after all. But we have another one here that we can only hope is not going to be like Pixels.

Free Guy stars Ryan Reynolds as Guy who lives a happy life working at the bank while chaos ensues outside with so called heroes just doing whatever they want. It turns out that he is just a Non Playable Character in a video game, designed to do the same thing day after day. That all changes when he gets the hero’s sunglasses and breaks his programming by becoming the hero himself.

So yes, this is a Ryan Reynolds vehicle. He is the only big star in this movie with Taika Watiti and that guy from Stranger Things being the only other people you’ll recognise. In a way, this feels quite old fashioned. It’s a blockbuster concept that is being carried not by a big franchise name, but a big star name. I thought this sort of film had died off when star power died a death due to no actor having the ability to bring in a crowd on their name alone anymore. That is one of the reasons Hollywood relies on old franchises, because that’s the only reliable way to bring money in. It’s actually quite charming to back to this sort of thing.

But these big lead movies need the big lead to actually perform. Considering Reynolds used to star in complete crap before Deadpool, seriously his IMDB pre-2016 is a trainwreck and a half, this is not a given. But thankfully, this is more late era Reynolds rather than The Proposal and Definitely, Maybe Reynolds of old. Basically not an actor that will make you forget it’s him, but one that goes full force into the plot, is quick witted and very fun. He makes Guy, who in the wrong hands could end up being quite irritating, a really fun and sweet character. Someone who you can really root for because he’s just such a nice person. As I said, this could have ended up being irritating. The wrong actor might be that little too earnest and put people off because off humanity’s bizarre hatred of people who are incredibly nice. But Reynolds plays the role with this naivety that makes it really work, especially when working off his even bubblier friend Buddy. Yes his buddy is called Buddy, yu get over it.

The overall arc of the film feels quite old fashioned as well as if this is an early 2000s blockbuster. There is a main character who is looking for something more as if he’s a Disney princess, we have a love interest whose leading the action yet also isn’t quite and we have a world ending threat is very serious yet the film is always light hearted about it all. Considering the amount of big movies now which are just franchise pieces, this sort of style making a brief comeback is just nice to see. This particular style feels like some of the films from the early 2000s, so it plants me right back to being a child again. Now admittedly this also makes me realise my childhood is now in the nostalgic era for Hollywood and that is terrifying, albeit not as terrifying as my local radio station classifying Cake by the Ocean Floor as a throwback single but that’s another issue entirely, but it shows that even something that was quite criticised at the time for being samey can make a comeback if given a break.

I just really like how fun this film is. It is not a deep movie which wants to deliver a big message, it has one but who cares really, it mostly wants you to have fun. And it delivers! There are lots of funny in jokes for video game fans to enjoy and they mostly feel in touch with the current scene. Now the abusive culture at Soonami Studios who make the game Guy is in may hit a little close to the bone considering everyone happening at Activision Blizzard right now, but hopefully the over the top nature of it will avoid someone making a tedious think piece about. After all, how can anyone take Taika Watiti’s over-the-top performance as the man who runs the studios seriously? It is hilarious and exactly what you’d expect from the man. What I love most of all is the chaos happening in the background. Guy and Buddy will be having a fairly bland conversation expositing the plot, but cars will be flying and blowing up in the background because it’s a video game, so of course that happens and is normal to the characters. I found it funny every time.

Of course this isn’t the most groundbreaking film in the world. It is adherent to an old fashioned style, something that shouldn’t be surprising considering the director also helmed the Night at the Museum films which also felt quite nostalgic, and doesn’t really pull up any trees. It never does anything to really shock or surprise you and it largely proceeds as you expect. I’m not saying this as a major negative as it isn’t really one, but I can’t say this film will blow your mind with what it does. It does it’s job very well, but it’s not exactly trying to climb Mount Everest. It’s trying to cook you a Big Mac, it’s not spectacular but it does it well.

Free Guy is a fun blockbuster which you’ll really enjoy. It’s not the most special film in the world and it isn’t going to appear in any Top 10s at the end of the year. But what it will do is keep you entertained for two hours. You’ll enjoy the creative action set pieces, you’ll enjoy the jokes and overall, you’ll have a good time with what I think will become a crowd pleaser of a movie. It probably won’t live long in the memory, other than a fantastic cameo which seems to be what has captured the imagination, but some films should just give you a good time. Free Guy certainly does that.

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A Guy Who Talks About Movies

Former Head of Movies for Screen Critics. Film Reviews now hosted on Medium.