Sunday, 26 September 2021

Free Guy

Ready NPC One

Free Guy
USA/Canada 2021
Directed by M. Shawn Levy
Walt Disney

Warning: Plot spoilers so, if you didn’t see the trailer,
probably don’t read the paragraphs here dealing with the story.

Okay, so Free Guy is one of those nicely made action fantasy movies with a lot of heart. It’s not exactly original but it’s presented in a way slightly differently to most movies that take on this kind of theme and, I’d say it more or less does it’s own thing so, I’m not going to criticise it on the ‘originality’ stakes.

After explaining to the audience the difference between the Heroes who wear sunglasses and those who don’t, Guy (played by Ryan Reynolds), wakes up every morning in Free City, grabs his blue shirt from the cupboard and heads off over to the coffee shop for his morning drink before going to work as a bank teller. A bank that’s robbed every day, one of a series of largely violent incidents barely blinked at by Guy and his friends because this stuff is happening all the time. Then he becomes somewhat aware of a girl, Molotov, who inadvertently inspires him to break out of his established routine and he steals a pair of sunglasses. The glasses help him see the world for what it is... a game in which he can evolve and raise his character level in order for Molotov, who is really Millie (played by Jodie Comer), to take him seriously.

And when I say she’s really Millie, Free City is just a big, global online video game but Guy, without any forehand knowledge of this, is an NPC (which, to those of you who don’t play video games, stands for Non Player Character). So the non-evolving, collateral damage characters who are there to interact with players and get punched, blown up or otherwise injured before re-spawning for another glorious day in Free City (much like the characters played by movie extras, I guess). However, Millie and her ex-partner Keys (played by Joe Keery) are trying to find the evidence inside the game that proves that Key’s boss, who distributes the game and who is played by director Taika Waititi, has illegally used their game engine as the basis for Free City. And once she realises what’s going on with Guy, she needs the assistance of the first evolving AI character, which itself is a remnant of that original software, to help her locate it before the sequel game is released to the public and the original version is overwritten... effectively ending all the NPC’s lives in the game (as far as Guy is concerned).

And I won’t say anymore than that but it’s a really nice action comedy with a side helping of romance and a big heart. It does, honestly, resemble Ready Player One (reviewed here) a lot. Actually, the film shares a screenwriter with Ready Player One so, perhaps that’s not so surprising. And the plot also has similarities to Disney’s earlier 1982 hit Tron in some ways... although the way in which it’s presented here is certainly a lot different.  

Reynolds is absolutely perfect in the role of the up beat NPC Guy and Jodie Comer is... well I’ve only seen her be brilliant in everything she’s in so far and she has good on-screen chemistry with Reynolds, for sure. There are also a heck of a lot of cameo appearances in the movie, too many to mention here... some quite overt like Channing Tatum and Chris Evans, others more hidden like Hugh Jackman. Also, there are loads of video game references (most of which went completely over my head because I’m not a big game player, although I did pick up that Free City was based a little on Liberty City from some of the Grand Theft Auto games) and a load of pop culture shout outs too... fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Wars and a couple of their scores are in for a treat too, it has to be said.

The film hurtles along at a rapid pace but there’s still time to pack in a ‘double love story’ (kind of) and even a nice, very welcome reference to the problematic and insane lack of gun control laws in America, it has to be said. It’s a morally uplifting film in a lot of ways and it’s all packaged up in a world filled with hot cars, health power ups, exploding buildings and all the things you might expect from a modern, action oriented video game. However, it also pushes the idea that playing games with a violent content is not necessarily the way to go and there’s a nice moment when it’s shown that everybody around in the ‘real world’ has come to love the main NPC, known globally as Blue Shirt Guy, because he goes around trying to save people and promote the idea that everyone should be nice to each other... which is also a sensibility which has grown in him from the original source code of the unreleased game hidden somewhere in the world of Free City. It’s a nice concept and the brisk pacing and non-stop comedy shenanigans of the main characters means the idea never outstays it welcome.

And that’s pretty much all I’ve got to say about Free Guy. This film is another hit for Reynolds, as far as I’m concerned and Comer proves she has what it takes to be able to help carry a huge studio tent pole movie too. Absolutely brilliant fun and this is one I’ll definitely be picking up on Blu Ray to show my nearest and dearest. Definitely worth catching this one.

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