Free Guy - Movie Review

Is it Real or Is it a Video Game or Is it a Movie?
Ryan Reynold's performance is perfect in this enjoyable action comedy.
Ryan Reynold's performance is perfect in this enjoyable action comedy.(IMDB)
Published: Sep. 9, 2021 at 4:05 PM EDT
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Free Guy, a new action/comedy starring the affable Ryan Reynolds, was scheduled to be released in 2020, but was postponed by the pandemic. I am very, very old, but even so, I am a bit embarrassed to say I have never played a modern video game. Does “Kaboom” count? Therefore, I had no idea that NPC, meant non-playable character, before I saw this film—meaning players cannot be them, inhabit them or animate them. Ryan plays bank employee Guy, who in the alternative world of the video game called “Free City” – is an NPC.

Inside the video game, Free City is a uber-violent place where there are daily bank robberies and citizens are shot dead at random, by criminals.  Guy has one line “Don’t have a good day, have a great day” as he completes, mundane repetitive teller transactions.  He may get a boot on his face pushing him to the floor as the robbery takes place, but it doesn’t really matter because he wakes up and does it all over again, the next day.

When Guy finds himself no longer a NPC, but an active player in his own story and journey – two software engineers Keys (Joe Keery) and Mouser (Utkarsh Ambudkar) that worked on code for “Free City” go “into” the game as virtual characters to try to stop Guy, they are unsuccessful and Guy, is indeed free now.

Keys’s former software design partner is Millie (EMMY winner Jodie Comer) and she is certain that the Keys and Mouser’s boss, the evil Antwan (Oscar winner Taika Waititi) stole some of their coding and is using it in Free City, without compensation or recognition. Her knowledge of the game enhances her ability to participate in the game and story in interesting ways. (no spoilers).  Furthermore, she resents Keys for working for the man (Antwan), despite a simmering attraction between them. Lil Rel Howery plays Guy’s sidekick, Buddy another NPC, a security guard at the perpetually robbed bank where Guy is a teller. Guy and Buddy, the names suggest generic people, blank canvases.

However great the supporting cast, it’s Reynolds’ movie all the way. He is perfectly cast. He is immensely likeable and credible as an innocent bystander that gets thrown into a hero role. He is a great physical actor that uses his whole body and face. There is an intimacy with the audience that almost breaks the fourth wall in his close-ups, but he is never mugging.  He never plays goofy or stupid. Furthermore, he can go from funny to sexy and back again effortlessly like Carole Lombard (a reference I know no one will get, but the best one I can make at this time).

Free Guy is fun, visually stimulating, hugely entertaining, and if you pay attention, you might catch a comment or message about today’s post technical-age society.

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