Release Date – 13th August, Cert – 12, Run-time – 1 hour 55 minutes, Director – Shawn Levy
An NPC (Ryan Reynolds) discovers that he is living inside a video game, which he must help reveal contains stolen code before it is shut down.
The most exciting thing in Guy’s routine life, aside from his pet goldfish Goldie, is the fact that he works at the bank. Ryan Reynolds announces this fact with a sense of wonderment, as if nothing could be better – not even the same cup of scolding hot coffee he gets every morning. While he’s working various sunglass-donning “heroes” of Free City burst in to rob the bank. The sunglasses indicate that these are players attempting to complete missions in a video game, however, Guy is unaware of this until being led away from his programmed course by stranger MolotovGirl (Jodie Comer).
Actually called Millie, the advanced player is attempting to investigate Free City in the hope of discovering what she believes is code that was stolen from her. However, with her fellow creator Keys (Joe Keery) working for Free City owner Antoine (Taika Waititi) she finds herself going it alone before the upcoming launch of Free City 2: Carnage. And thus, Guy – with his newfound knowledge that he is actually an Non-Player Character – begins to help his potential romantic interest, still unaware that he’s simply a digital character, while becoming a worldwide phenomenon in the process. There’s a world of glitches, powerups and plenty of streamer cameos ahead of them. The film certainly gives a good impression of an open-world video game and the explosive goings on that can happen within them.
However, such elements are little used over the near two hour course of the narrative. Often they’re only glimpsed at to further show how unaware Guy is of what his life actually is, or to show Antoine’s staff, namely Utkarsh Ambudkar’s Mouser, trying to prevent him and Millie from revealing that there is stolen content in the game. Items are deleted and landscapes change, but largely most things seem to happen in the moment and for plot convenience, although the film still manages to have a feeling that it’s perhaps around 15 minutes too long. Yet, such things aren’t huge issues when watching the film, what does get in the way is the lacking response to the attempted humour. Once again, Reynolds seems to be slightly riffing on his Deadpool character. While not completely, you can’t help but hear slight hints of the character in lines such as “it’s like losing my virginity” on tasting the same old cup of takeaway coffee – but perhaps this is also down to just how associated Reynolds has become with the character.
Some gags feel as if they fall somewhat flat from repetition, or a slightly uninspired. However, most of the time they just don’t seem to properly click. There’s an occasional feel to a couple of scenes and lines of dialogue that things were revisited and pieced together overtime, made up in the moment in a way just beyond improvisation. The general narrative survives and comes out fine – if not always completely landing an impact, although you only really want to pick up on certain details a little while afterwards – just the laughs never quite properly land. Over the course of the run-time there are a handful of amusing moments dotted around, and a number of flashy appearances likely to gain a big response from audiences. Where the film largely falters is in terms of its humour – which is often seemingly supposed to be the film’s main tone and draw.
For the most part Free Guy is a relatively harmless film. It passes by and certainly has some amusing moments that prevent it from feeling bland and unexciting. It’s a generally fine piece of work, not awful and not brilliant. However, it mostly falls, despite a cast of actors each putting in a good effort, because of the lack of effective humour. Creating the feeling that the film has had the reins pulled in on it a bit. As if it wasn’t able to be quite as free with its gags as it perhaps might have wanted to be.
The video game elements of Free Guy are well done, and create a number of amusing elements in its world. However, the majority of gags don’t feel as free and unfortunately falter despite the efforts of the cast.