Well, movie theaters are still closed in the Philippines. They’ve been closed ever since the world closed down so, instead of going to the mall to watch the latest film releases on opening day, I have to wait for them to be available on streaming services. This is why it took me so long to watch a movie I’ve been eagerly waiting for since last year. This is why I’m only putting up a review for Free Guy now, a good month or so after it was released.
Even though I’ve just watched the film now and I know a lot of people have seen it already, there has to be some eager fans who’ve wanted to see it but couldn’t for one reason or another. So, despite Free Guy having been released for a while now, this will still be a SPOILER FREE review. No major plot points will be talked about here.
There are actually two main plot points in Free Guy and they’re generally connected with each other. The first story focuses on Guy, a non-player character in Free City, a fictional online open-world game much like Grand Theft Auto Online. One day, he comes across a player-character, Molotov Girl, and something inside him changes. He decides to become a player himself but doesn’t do any “bad” deeds in order to become stronger. In the process, Guy becomes an Internet sensation known as Blue Shirt Guy. The second story follows the gamer who controls Molotov Girl, Millie, as she’s convinced the company who released Free City is using hers and her friend’s game code without the proper license. She plays the game in the hopes of finding proof of this.
Now, between the two stories, the one involving Guy is definitely the more intriguing one. While I’m not saying the plot following all of the corporate espionage isn’t good, Guy’s story is much more engaging and fun to watch, mainly because it’s set in the video game world. Seeing all of the video game tropes in action and being told in a tongue-in-cheek manner shows how much the creators of Free Guy love video games.
Because of how outlandish and stylish the video game part is, the real world segments come across as pretty blah. It is integral to the overall plot of Free Guy so cutting that storyline out is impossible. But, like I said, it’s still a good story but, at the same time, I can’t help but think these portions of the film could have been integrated just a smidge better into the story.
I will say the world building on both sides, the video game world and the real world, is done very well. I’ve already mentioned how the video game tropes peppered throughout the Free City scenes show a lot of love for video games. But they did go the extra mile by also having the background characters, specifically the players, do what some gamers will do, such as running into a wall in order to try to glitch the game or teabagging a dead guy. It’s this attention to detail that makes it feel like a real video game. The real world is given some texture by adding in cameos of actual gamers like Jacksepticeye, Ninja and Pokimane giving their thoughts on the Blue Shirt Guy’s meteoric rise to prominence. While this will undoubtedly date Free Guy, it’s still a nice little wink to gamers out there.
Probably the best thing I love about Free Guy is, oddly enough, the acting. Ryan Reynolds feels perfectly cast as the initially bumbling and naive Guy. Reynolds does a fantastic job as someone wide-eyed and innocent and it comes off as if he genuinely doesn’t like to hurt the other non-player characters if he can help it. I also have to commend Lil Rey Howard as Buddy, the security guard who just so happens to be Guy’s best friend. Like Reynolds, his naivety feels authentic but, unlike Guy’s character, is a little more afraid to break out of his cycle. I also have to commend all of the background characters as they do a good job in making the world of Free City feels like a video game.
Jodie Comer has to pull double duty as she plays both Millie in the real world and Molotov Girl in the game world. I really love how she makes both characters distinct from each other, as Millie is more introverted and quiet while Molotov Girl is more brash and cocky. I also love how she does a very exaggerated hip sway when she walks as Molotov Girl, which is exactly how more female characters walk in video games. A really nice touch from Jodie Comer right there.
Joe Keery is also good as Keys, Millie’s former programming partner who now works in the complaints department for the Free City game. It’s subdued enough but, during the moments when he needs to show some backbone, he does manage to come through. Utkarsh Ambudkar’s Mouser also works in the Free City complaints department and I do love his cockiness and how outlandish he comes across. Strangely enough, the one performance I had difficulty swallowing is Taika Waititi’s Antwan, the CEO of the company that owns Free City. Don’t get me wrong! It’s a brilliant performance and he’s funny with all of improv skills. My big issue is he doesn’t come off as a classic video game publisher CEO. He’s not a serious stuffed suit but more of a wacky and likable guy who makes the same decisions as serious stuffed suit. I liked Taika Waititi in the film but it’s just too disconnected with what I know about video game CEOs who are behind huge games and franchises.
For a movie that’s partially set in a video game, there’s not a whole lot of action in Free Guy. There are only probably a couple of setpieces in the middle and the majority of the action happens during the last third of the film’s 115-minute runtime. That’s not to say the movie is boring because the character performances and the general pacing move things along at a brisk pace. It’s during the last part of the film where things do get a little crazy as there are some things that would never happen in an online massive multiplayer game the scale of Free City. Additionally, Free Guy also breaks a couple of the rules they set up earlier, which can break immersion if you’ve been paying close attention.
When all is said and done, I had a good time with Free Guy. It’s a charming film that’s a love letter to video games. Ryan Reynolds, Jodie Comer and Taika Waititi give very entrancing performances and both stories do manage to gel together well. I am concerned that viewers who don’t play video games will get as much enjoyment and I’m not sure if the good performances will make up for it. I say, if you play video games, definitely go give Free Guy a watch. If you don’t get video gaming culture, you may want to steer clear because you might not really understand what’s happening.
Have you seen Free Guy? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments section below!