The trailers for Free Guy (2021) sold me on the premise simply by having Ryan Reynolds in it. I expected to laugh a few times, to roll my eyes at the plot, and to accept this as a solid video game-inspired movie. What I didn’t expect, however, was to love Shawn Levy’s film, and for it to become one of my favorites of the summer…nay…the year! Not only did Reynolds deliver for me and the premise from the trailer get executed quite well – but I found the plot and the commentary about the world to be engaging and thought-provoking, as there is an existential crisis that really hits home in this film.
Guy (Reynolds) is going through his normal routine in Free City, and seems completely content. The only thing missing is that special lady who his best friend Buddy (Lil Rel Howery) keeps reminding him doesn’t exist…until he spots her. This leads to him taking action, and finding out his world has so much more going on than he ever expected.
While that synopsis is accurate, there is so much more at work in this film. The trailer mention that Guy is an unknowing NPC (non-playable character) in a video game who suddenly finds himself aware of choices he can make. The game environment borrows heavily from Grand Theft Auto V, and gamers will catch tons of references to other popular franchises – thus, Guy’s world is full of violence and death. Now, he has the agency to make his own choices and impact the world he lives in – all in the pursuit of a girl. Molotov Girl (Jodie Comer), as she is known in Free City, has a goal of her own that ties back into the real world.
Our world focuses on Soonami and its CEO, Antoine (Taika Waititi), and his upcoming sequel to Free City. One of his programmers, Keys (Joe Keery), has his issues with the game and an old partnership that guides much of the subplot, which also lends itself to some other genre elements coming into play in big ways. In other words – like a video game, there is much more going on underneath the surface of this film, and Levy navigates it all perfectly. The movie is fun, funny, and full of heart.
Reynolds is great, as is Waititi – but a comedic stand-out most certainly goes to Utkarsh Ambudkar. He is another employee at Soonami but gets to do so many things in this film, including being an avatar in Free City for one hilarious chase sequence. Ambudkar has often been given solid comedic side roles, but this movie allows him to flex his chops a little more often.
Free Guy was a pleasant August surprise and a film that I fully recommend. I know I’ll end up rewatching this one a few times once it is available for home viewing. I am a sucker for Reynolds, but the entire cast here is giving great performances. There is real chemistry and intrigue, plus one hilarious performance from a big named actor in a relatively small role. Free Guy earns the Must See rating.