Shawn Levy’s action comedy and gaming tribute FREE GUY has been a long time coming due to the pandemic. But thanks to Ryan Reynolds’ tireless PR efforts, there was no getting around new trailers and impressions. Now the wait is not only over – it’s also worth it! We reveal more about this in our review.
OT: Free Guy (USA 2021)
Guy (Ryan Reynolds) lives the simple life of a teller at Free City Bank. He exudes a positive attitude and optimistic cheerfulness and always enjoys a cup of good coffee. He shares this love of life with his best friend Buddy (Lil Rel Howery), until one day everything suddenly changes. Because he discovers that he is nothing more than a background character in the extremely brutal open-world video game “Free City”. Chaos and destruction reign supreme in the wildly popular game distributed by Soonami Studios and its greedy boss Antwan (Taika Waititi). The players in this universe, who have no inhibitions, reach higher levels by committing gratuitous acts of violence and destruction. Guy meets the hyper-attractive Molotovgirl (Jodie Comer), with whom he immediately falls in love. She helps him find his way in this game and come to terms with the fact that his life is not real. Molotovgirl, who goes by the name Millie in the real world, has a bone to pick with Soonami Studios because she believes Antwan stole the codes from a game that she and programmer Keys (Joe Keery) sold to the company.
The world in “Free Guy” is initially cynical and violent. In the end, a peaceful place full of good mood and fun. Gamers immediately throw their hands up over their heads: Is the action comedy announced in the trailers as Ryan Reynolds feel-good fun perhaps a morally sour affair that is once again about exploiting the gaming cliché? that playing first-person shooters in particular is primarily intended to shape the criminals and gunmen of the future? Maybe “Free Guy” would actually have become such a film if the team behind it wasn’t made up of passionate gamers themselves. Basically, you should have been paying attention at the point where the main actor and producer Ryan Reynolds (“6 Underground”) put immense energy behind using social media to shorten the waiting time for the project, which had been postponed several times due to corona. We remember: The last time he presented himself in a comparably euphoric manner was during the development phase of “Deadpool 1 and 2”. And as is well known, these did not only come from the audience and Press went well to very well, but primarily lived from Ryan Reynolds’ performance as Marvel anti-hero Deadpool, in which he clearly enjoyed himself and knew how to transfer his passion to the entire production. Now Reynolds’ portrayal of Deadpool was not only based on biting humor, but also on exactly the same cynicism that also dominates at the beginning of “Free Guy” in the open-world game Free City. But the actor by no means repeats his performance, but delivers exactly the opposite: a “The LEGO Movie” Emmett memory role, the epitome of the good-humored naive, the ultimate warm-hearted sympathizer and hopeless believer in a future in which he too NPC finally wants to lead the life he imagines.
In Free City you as a player (also) have a free choice of clothing…
The abbreviation NPC stands for “Non-Player Character” and basically refers to all the extras in the background of a video game who fill the scenery with life while the players around them complete the missions assigned to them. Some titles also allow interactions with her; In Free City, for example, you get extra points for killing NPCs. So they certainly have their interactive uses, but they only do exactly what they were programmed to do. Guy in “Free Guy,” for example, is a bank teller who wears the same light blue shirt every day and whose only job is to raise his arms during a bank robbery scene and then lie on the floor with his colleague Buddy until the robbery is over. The everyday grind is correspondingly predictable, although admittedly not so much for some people real Everyday life is different: the same clothes every morning, the same specialty coffee, the same job, the same topics of conversation – some people will be able to identify with Guy. This makes his breakout from this repetitive loop all the more rousing at an early stage: when Guy can’t simply order a cappuccino in the coffee shop he trusts because his code only allows for the ordering of a special coffee composition, Guy gradually discovers his existence as an artificial intelligence that isn’t there at all understands that he has to abide by the rules imposed by the game. Guy also adopts the attitude of a permanently grinning, permanently good-humored sunshine that Reynolds displayed from the start in rebellious mode. And so from then on, a guy who is suddenly fascinated by everything around him and also has a hopeless crush on a game character walks through the scenery, happy like a little child about chewing gum ice cream, or just about the fact that he can finally wear something other than light blue Shirt – a light blue long-sleeved shirt, for example.
“Ryan Reynolds walks through the scene as a guy who is fascinated by everything around him and has a hopeless crush on a game character, who is happy like a little child about bubble gum ice cream or just that he can finally wear something other than a light blue shirt .”
Ryan Reynold’s exuberant euphoria is simply contagious. And so it doesn’t seem instructive at all, but rather completely in keeping with his character, when Guy declares it his intention to level up his game status (and thereby, above all, gain advantages in flirting with his beloved) by breaking the brutal rules in Free City was quickly eliminated. Instead of shooting other NPCs, getting into vicious fights or taking part in even worse misdeeds, he helps an old woman find her kitten or becomes the mediator of a fight. This “I’m making the city a better place!” mentality also gives “Free Guy” its overall very positive tone, which already makes the film so appealing dem – in the truest sense of the word – makes feel-good film of the year. Because as much as Guy’s enthusiasm for the world around him is transferred to the audience, it also works well to multiply this mood within the film world. The freeing of an NPC and the associated mission for a better world is developing into a viral phenomenon in “Free Guy”, to which well-known international Let’s Play greats from well-known gaming platforms are also dedicating themselves and making enthusiastic videos about how they do it in Free City search for the “Blue Shirt Guy”. Especially for those familiar with the scene, “Free Guy” turns out to be a hodgepodge of cross-references, Easter eggs and cameos (!) that goes far beyond mere name-dropping à la “Ready Player One”. And anyone who thought that “Ralph is enough” and “Chaos on the Net” had reached the optimum level of detailed recreations of the game world will be proven wrong with “Free Guy”.
Guy (Ryan Reynolds) and his love interest Molotov Girl (Jodie Comer).
The biggest inspiration for Free City is probably the ten-part open-world classic and third-person shooter “Grand Theft Auto”. But director Shawn Levy (“Night at the Museum 3 – The Mysterious Tomb”) takes full advantage of being “Free Guy”. no is a classic video game adaptation, so he has to slavishly stick to certain details in order not to risk messing things up with the fans of the original. Instead, there are various game realities, modes and functions (the constantly recurring discussion about Guy’s skin tone alone is representative of the meticulous attention to detail that the creative people have done here) with which the makers are under control from the first to the last second Prove that they understand the world from which they tell the story. And so, in its just under two hours, “Free Guy” is not only packed to the brim with (crazy) humor, speed and surprise appearances from numerous (sometimes only acoustic) superstars and franchises, but also with various accurate observations; sometimes related to the gaming behavior of the gamers, sometimes to the movements of their characters and other times to the design of the city and the possibilities presented here. The fact that “Free Guy” also looks damn good thanks to its generous budget of around 125 million US dollars is almost a side note. Most of the time the film takes place in live-action style (always with CGI effects that make Free City clearly a computer game world). But every now and then the camera zooms out and shows both Guy and the other characters as 3D characters. This especially happens when “Free Guy” leaves its in-game narrative level and focuses on the people sitting in front of the computer screens.
“In its just under two hours, ‘Free Guy’ is not only packed to the brim with (crazy) humor, tempo and surprise appearances from numerous (sometimes only acoustic) superstars and franchises, but also with various accurate observations.”
The live-action film plot around an eccentric corporate boss (greatly over-the-top: Taika Waititi) and his game developers, who have recognized the potential in a free-spinning NPC and are therefore doing everything they can to prevent their boss from switching off the game – the exact motivation for this is indeed largely far-fetched, but hey: it needs some kind of plot after all! – turns out to be no less entertaining. The chemistry between Joe Keery (“Molly’s Game”) and Jodie Comer (“Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker”) as a pair of programmer friends is magical and always brings Guy’s positivity into the “real world” in the film. In the end, “Free Guy” is above all an appeal to notice the positive things around us. And we bet: After watching this film, the next time you’ll think twice or three times whether you shoot a harmless NPC or simply let him do his day’s work…
Conclusion: For connoisseurs of the gaming scene, “Free Guy” is a gold mine, but for anyone else who is even remotely interested, the Ryan Reynolds vehicle proves to be a great, positive pleasure with a huge gag hit rate, numerous surprises and a story without length where everyone involved has the time of their lives.
“Free Guy” can be seen in USA cinemas from August 12, 2021.