Free Guy Synopsis: When a bank teller (Ryan Reynolds) discovers he’s actually a background player in an open-world video game, he decides to become the hero of his own story — one that he can rewrite himself. In a world where there are no limits, he’s determined to save the day his way before it’s too late, and maybe find a little romance with the coder who conceived him.
Video games’ vast creativity comes to life on the big screen in Shawn Levy’s blockbuster Free Guy. While this original IP project doesn’t stray too far from the comfortable formula (the story meshes Gamer and The Truman Show but in an airless, family-friendly context), Levy and company spin a breezy good time at the cineplex.
Levy has made a career out of busy, studio-friendly offerings. His sturdy yet unpretentious resume has caused him to go overlooked in critical circles (The Night at the Museum trilogy and Real Steel thrive as agreeable crowdpleasers). Weightless blockbusters like Free Guy lie right in Levy’s wheelhouse.
Working in a world rampant with chaotic chases and pop culture references, Levy keeps the action moving at a fast and furious rate while maintaining a steady presence behind the camera. His clean and overly-lit style may land with a certain blandness, but Levy’s consistently poised delivery captures the frenzy with technical aplomb (I can’t say I was missing shaky cam).
Screenwriters Matt Lieberman and Zak Penn also operate comfortably in their studio confines. The unpretentious narrative whisks along skillfully with a plethora of well-timed jokes and sincere crowdpleasing moments. A better film could have engaged more with the film’s real-world and virtual quandaries (Guy’s turmoil over his existence exists solely for false melodrama). Still, I give the duo credit for exploring their premise’s creative capabilities. The addition of timely cameos and surprisingly effective pop culture references imbue enough spark to mask the inherent familiarity.
Much of the fun comes from the all-star cast. Ryan Reynolds is always comfortable embodying the smarmy and sarcastic charm of Deadpool (he played a similar character Hitman’s Bodyguard and 6 Underground), but Free Guy gifts the actor with a welcomed change of pace. As the overly sincere Guy, Reynolds’s lively energy creates an infectiously spirited protagonist to follow. It’s refreshing to see Reynolds mirror himself as the bud of the joke instead of always being typecast as the self-aware, smart ass. Jodie Comer and Lil Rey Howery share breezy chemistry with Reynolds, while Joe Keery and Oscar-winning writer/director Taikia Waititi provide a humorous spark in their by-the-numbers role.
Free Guy is far from faultless. The screenplay paints itself into far too many conventional corners, which isn’t helped by an unblinding dedication to family-friendly approachability. I can imagine versions of this film that are far bolder and thematically enriching. However, for what it is, Free Guy does a capable enough job whisking audiences into its bombastic world. It’s refreshing to see a blockbuster that doesn’t enforce life-or-death steaks upon audiences, with Levy maintaining a playful verve that catapults his familiar archetypes.
Free Guy earns enough high-score watermarks to win over summer audience. I hope the film’s strong box office run implores studios to embrace more original projects.
Free Guy is now playing in theaters.
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