A mashup of The Truman Show, Groundhog Day and Grand Theft Auto, Free Guy is an entertaining if self-satisfied action comedy with Ryan Reynolds’ trademark snark tempered but occasionally rising to the surface. Reynolds plays Guy, a blue-shirted background player in a violent roleplaying game dominated by those wearing sunglasses. These ‘heroes’ – mayhem makers, really – decimate Free City as they rob, murder and make things blow up with brutality.
Guy enjoys his lot as a bit part in this world, blissfully unaware that he is an algorithm, until he spots Jodie Comer’s Molotov girl: a badass player operated on the outside by her human alter ego Millie Rusk, who is trying to strike back against Free City’s developer Antwan (a cartoonish, sadly underwhelming Taika Watiti). He has stolen the code she developed with Joe Keery’s Keys for an immersive observational game, which seems to be a higher end version of The Sims. She is playing Free City, the game in question, in a bid to find proof of Antwan’s deceit, and ends up triggering Guy into falling in love. Together they must stop Free City and it’s increasingly aware populace from being deleted amidst a plethora of CGI.
Free City is fantastically designed and Reynolds is a likeable if muscly everyman overwhelmed at the possibilities his world offers when he wears sunglasses inside the game and discovers who – and eventually what – he really is. There are many nods to gamers, including the use of YouTubers, celebrity cameos and background jokes; some characters keep running into walls and repeat actions to varying degrees of hilarity. Comer is solid as the principled Millie and her alter ego, crashing motorbikes and fighting ninjas with aplomb.
The film, however, is not quite as good as it thinks it is: a passable bit of popcorn with its roots in many previous films, Free Guy is well executed but often the script feels lumpen and forced, with Reynolds’ trademark improv apparent and character swerves a little too easily accomplished. Director Levy makes sense of the worlds on show with verve but it ultimately underwhelms – and despite the film making a joke about cash-in sequels, Free Guy 2 has already been announced.
Out now in cinemas
Dir: Shawn Levy (12A, 130 mins)
words KEIRON SELF
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