Free Guy is about an average guy named Guy (Ryan Reynolds) who wakes up each morning, greets his goldfish Goldie, puts on his uniform, eats his cereal, grabs a medium coffee with cream and two sugars, and heads to his job as a teller with his security guard buddy, Buddy (Lil Rel Howery); at the bank, he endures one of the day’s routine armed robberies. And it’s not just at his place of work – with mercenary-filled helicopters, flame thrower-wielding masked men, tanks, and explosions all just a normal part of the city landscape, crime and violence is the way of life in Free City.
What Guy doesn’t yet know however, is that he is an NPC (non-player character) in a videogame; essentially, he’s just part of the backdrop for other players’ adventures. That is until, spurred on by his feelings for a sunglasses-wearing player named Molotov Girl (the in-game avatar of developer Millie, both played by Jodie Comer) – a feature which identifies the character as a human-controlled, active player – he breaks from routine and takes over control of his digital life, an impossibility that causes waves in the ‘real world’.
Screenwriters Matt Lieberman and Zak Penn pen a light-hearted, screwball anthem against conformity with a surprising amount of heart. Yet the point they are wanting to make is undercut by the frequent visual reminders of Disney’s corporate might. Having absorbed Free Guy’s production studio (20th Century Fox) back in 2019, for Disney to then bombard the audience with references to their many IPs can only come across as a gross display of their growing monopoly on entertainment – something which, though fun in some instances, is bafflingly contrary to Free Guy’s self-proclaimed celebration of individuality.
Still, thanks to Reynolds, Comer, and Joe Keery’s commitment to their roles – the latter of whom plays Keys, Millie’s ex-business partner, friend, and current employee of dastardly CEO Antoine (Taika Waititi) – and the script’s genuine earnestness, Free Guy still offers a light slice of escapism and an unexpectedly moving reflexion on self-determination that add substance to Disney’s all-flash approach.
Likewise, director Shawn Levy could have gone the way of The Truman Show and made a bigger deal of Guy’s existential crisis upon realising he’s all code. Instead, Levy opts to keep things unburdened and spins Free Guy into a multicoloured, postmodern romance and tongue-in-cheek homage to gaming. The result is a film with modest ambitions that may fail to be particularly memorable, but still proves refreshingly bright, amusing, and genuinely heart-warming. Certainly, there’s enough to enjoy in Free Guy to warrant a trip to the cinema this summer.
Free Guy is out in UK cinemas August 13th.