Ryan Reynolds is a busy guy. When he’s not pitching his gin or his mobile telecommunications company, buying a football club, trolling his GREEN LANTERN bosses at Warner Bros., Hugh Jackman and his wife, Blake Lively, with tweets and hilarious videos often while dressed in his Deadpool costume, and being a father to his and Lively’s three girls, he manages to crank out a film or two a year. After three delays due to studio rescheduling and covid, he’s now back in the cinema with FREE GUY.
Guy (Reynolds, HITMAN’S WIFE’S BODYGUARD; the DEADPOOL films; LIFE) is a happy-go-lucky bank teller in Free City, a place where the people who wear sunglasses drive fast cars, shoot guns and rocket-propelled grenades, rob convenience stores and generally take advantage of people like Guy who are cheerfully on the receiving end of all this mayhem. One day Guy sees the woman of his dreams and his life changes forever. The sunglasses-wearing woman, named Molotov Girl, tells Guy that he is just an NPC (non-player character) in a popular video game known as Free City. Though Guy is strictly AI, something has happened to him that was unexpected by the coders at Soonami, the gaming company behind Free City that is owned by Antoine (Taika Waititi, THE SUICIDE SQUAD; JOJO RABBIT; the AVENGERS franchise; WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS). He’s becoming human. But not everyone is surprised by Guy’s metamorphosis. Coder Millie (Jodie Comer, TV’s KILLING EVE), who is the human behind the Molotov Girl avatar, always suspected that Antoine stole the revolutionary AI code that she and fellow coder Keys (Joe Keery, TV’s STRANGER THINGS) created when Antoine hired them. Now she needs to find the proof, which lies buried deep within the game’s code. Guy, meanwhile, decides to reshape Free City into a friendlier place, a move that resonates with the game’s fans around the world who are following along from their computers, gaming consoles and social media streams.
If you haven’t already figured it out, FREE GUY is the gamers’ version of THE TRUMAN SHOW and, just like the Jim Carrey film, the doorway to the “other” world lies offshore. Reynolds does his usual deadpan shtick here playing Guy as a wide-eyed, fatally optimistic naif, again much like Truman Burbank. Unlike THE TRUMAN SHOW however, FREE GUY doesn’t contain any deep message about surveillance, privacy or indictment of reality television. This is pure popcorn fun… without the popcorn because here in Hong Kong we’re still not allowed to lower our masks while in the cinema.
The film is the most enjoyable when we see who the people are behind their avatars and watch them interact with the game. One such player is a junk food junkie who still lives at home with his mother. His avatar, on the other hand, is a handsome, athletic killer. You’ll have to watch the film to see who the actor who plays the avatar is. He’s not the only familiar face doing a cameo role here. I’ll just say that if anyone wondered if Disney, which now owns 20th Century Fox, would milk their IP through crossovers, that question has now been answered.
Comer does well here, especially when she’s playing a no-nonsense Australian? British? badass. (The accent is the subject of discussion at one point.) Her next project, a drama called HELP, which is set during the covid pandemic, has yet to be scheduled for release. Waititi is somewhat underutilized however. While he does have some funny lines and one scene where he tries to pick himself up off the floor with flourish, a move that I’m sure was improvised, he’s mostly relegated to being the story’s unidimensional bad guy-lite.
FREE GUY opens in Hong Kong this Thursday (August 12th) and in most major markets around the world on the 13th. It’s fun, it’s full of laughs and has more than a few surprises to keep you entertained even if you’ve never played Grand Theft Auto. Go see it!
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