By Laurie Coker
Director Shawn Levy with a crisp, although not particularly fresh, script by Matt Lieberman and Zak Penn, creates a wild world where gaming and reality intersect in an action-packed, hilarious character-driven romp. ‘Free City’ creators don’t draw from a single video game, or a sitcom, or any other source material, although there are several nods. Instead, they create a mish-mash of visually stunning video game pop-ups and players both inside and outside the game and it’s FUN.
‘Free Guy’ starring Ryan Reynolds begins a bit like the ‘Lego Movie’ where “Everything is awesome!” Reynolds plays Guy, a non-descript bank teller, who ambles through life unaware that he and others in his life are NPC (non-player characters), in a game called ‘Free City.’ Everything, however, is not awesome. Throughout his day, Guy encounters car chases, explosions, gunfire, and daily bank robberies, where he and his best friend, security guard Buddy (Lil Rel Howery) lay on the floor and chat. Until one day – when Guy sees Maltov – aka Millie (Jodi Comer) and decides to make some changes. He scores some special glasses and follows Maltov on an adventure that affects his world and hers.
Reynolds, charming as always, amuses delightfully as the eternally optimistic sucker who discovers he’s being “played” in more ways than one. He uses his obvious star-power talent playing a clearly defined character and he successfully holds together the movie giving us a blockbuster that is actually about things, even if what it has to say is often jumbled or slightly disquieting. He infuses a perfect balance of humor and sensitivity and co-star Comer manages to do the same with a tad more seriousness. Millie travels between the game and reality, trying to find proof that megalomaniac, Antoine (Taika Waititi) stole her and her partner, “Keys’” (Joe Keery) AI code and he enlists Guy to help. Howery, as Guy’s bestie Buddy, for his turn, is the perfect silly sidekick to Reynolds and the pair has excellent comedic chemistry.
‘Free Guy’ is far from perfect, but it entertains with action and humor, and its messages, subtle or otherwise, are timely. Some are a bit forced, but watching Reynolds, who also produces the film, is pure pleasure. Laughter abounds and ironically, I actually enjoyed the video game aspect more than anything else, and the ensemble cast rocks. I am placing a B+ in the grade book for this fun frolic into video game fantasy.