I haven’t had this much fun at the theater since “Knives Out!” “Free Guy” co-written by Matt Lieberman and Zach Penn take comedy and a creative concept to new levels in this strange world of gaming and artificial intelligence. Ryan Reynolds stars as Guy, a bank teller and NPC (non-playable character) inside a violent video game. His role is to react to the repeated bank heists and brutal killings that occur thanks to the gamers dressed in avatars invading Free City from the real world. But when Guy sees a woman from afar and eventually meets her, his world turns upside down. He begins to challenge his “Ground Hog Day” choices and make some changes. These small ripples will forever change the game called “Free City.”
That woman, Millie (Jodie Comer), is playing the game for a different reason. A programmer who’s technology has been stolen is determined to find the clue in this game that will prove her proprietary rights. Meeting Guy, however, gives her a partner in this game to help right the wrongs. As Guy learns more, he changes and these changes effect not only Free City, but the controlling real world. To tell you much more about what happens would spoil the fun of this journey and ultimate conclusion. Suffice it to say that each and every scene will have you laughing out loud and surprised by all the twists and turns (and cameos) that occur. And what starts out as a comedic mystery becomes an unexpected love story.
“Free City” has it all: humor, heart, mystery, intrigue, social commentary, incredible set designs and jaw-dropping special effects that bring you into this video world. All of this is elevated by actors who are having fun with their roles. Reynolds is magical as Guy or as he is deemed “Blue Shirt Guy.” He is a master of comedy with his timing, facial expressions, and nuance. We love his character immediately and watch him grow, rooting for him every step of the way while we wipe away the tears of laughter. Of course, it’s not a one-man show. His best friend and bank security officer named Buddy is played by Lil Rel Howery who uses his signature style of comedy but shows us he can deliver another level of persona: that of a scared, insecure NPC and loyal friend. Guy and Buddy’s interactions are a sheer delight.
Comer has a dual role as Millie in the real world and that of her gaming avatar. Joe Keery is “Keys,” Millie’s former work colleague who wants to be so much more. Together, these characters navigate the pretend world as it morphs into its own reality, racing against time to prove that their technology was stolen. The cast of characters including Utkarsh Ambudkar as “Mouser” and Matt Cardarople as “Gamer” who provides some of my favorite scenes in the film, and Taika Waititi as the offensively greedy gaming tech company Soonami CEO, make us laugh and escape into the movie.
Unlike many superhero movies where you really need to be a fan to appreciate it, you don’t have to be a video gamer to enjoy every aspect of this film. “Free Guy” is pure fun, stirring up the worlds of reality and video gaming and giving us one of the most entertainingly hilarious rom-coms ever. With its smart and creative plot, dialogue, and message, I can’t wait to see this movie again…and again.