Free Guy Review: The Best Video Game Movie Ever Made

Free Guy

To date, the video game industry has had something of an embarrassing involvement with Hollywood. Studios think that for a video game adaptation to be successful, you need to replicate the experience of playing a game but as a spectator. However, they don’t realize that we don’t like watching games—we like playing games. Now, the best video games flicks aren’t actually based on games at all. Films such as TronThe Last Starfighter, and Wreck-It Ralph are considered some of the best video game movies of all time, and they’re not based on video games at all. So if you know the meaning of the terms “health pack,” “heads-up display,” and “power ups,” then Free Guy may be the film for you. 

Free Guy follows Guy, a bank teller who lives a perfect life in a not-so-perfect world. Guy, in fact, is a non-playable character (NPC) who lives in an open-world video game. One day, Guy decides to pursue a girl that “has sunglasses on.” What he doesn’t know is that these sunglass people are avatars controlled by real-life people. Thus, when Guy takes the glasses of a player and puts them on, he, and the game, will never be the same. 

Now, in a high-concept movie where NPCs become self-aware and looking for love, Free Guy stands out as a love letter to the massively multiplayer online (MMO) medium that it’s trying to adapt. The filmmakers aren’t just trying to create a satire of Grand Theft Auto. It’s also a pure unadulterated pop culture overload set to the tune of an MMO video game. It also includes a subtle examination of what it takes to be a good guy, finding love, accepting oneself, and the mistreatment of the persecuted.

Director Shawn Levy (Real Steel) keeps things moving, and the material plays up Ryan Reynolds’ undeniable charm and witticism. Once Guy grabs the sunglasses, the movie goes into overdrive and, delightfully, turns up the video game mayhem to eleven. It’s a great comedy for the Fortnite generation—the flick tosses in one visual gag after another at a furious pace. While Levy pays homage to the classic tropes of the gaming generation, he also mocks it in many instances. Free Guy exaggerates much of the video game stereotypes, from the DLC you buy to the vulgarity of pre-pubescent kids, and Levy uses it to great comic effect.

Free Guy is a fantastic light-hearted romp and a fascinating analysis of what it means to be more than what you’re expected to be.

Levy also seems to have a knack for the genre. Whether it’s directing Real Steel or producing Stranger Things, he seems to have a perfect understanding of how to adapt genre material for a modern audience while celebrating it at the same time. Free Guy is a movie that’s as fun to watch as it would be to play. A lot of that has to do with the characters in the film. There is an emotional investment you develop with Guy as the movie moves along. 

Although Ryan Reynolds maintains his trademark humor here, he adds a heartfelt and loving nature to his performance. As a result, you begin to root for Guy as he searches for the affections of Molotov Girl. Guy really has no idea what being an actual player in this universe entails. Nevertheless, he seeks to better himself and prove his worth to a girl he fell in love with.

At its heart, Free Guy is about the journey of believing in oneself. That’s because the experience of watching Free Guy is only half about Guy’s search for love. The other half is about Millie’s (Jodie Comer) search for her game within Guy’s massive video game world. Comer has the unenviable task of playing two different characters. As Millie, she’s vulnerable and powerless, but as Molotov Girl, she’s strong and courageous. As both characters, Comer gives a fun performance throughout. At the same time, Joe Keery and Utkarsh Ambudkar give some entertaining performances as well. In his limited time in the film, Taika Waititi is delightfully campy as the head of the video game corporation.

Overall, Free Guy has surpassed Wreck-It Ralph as the best video game movie of all time. It’s incredible to see that the best video game flicks are never about the games themselves. It might be because playing the game and living in that world is an integral part of the experience. The best movies are the ones that comment on the gaming experience rather than trying to convert players into spectators. For this reason, Free Guy is a fantastic cheerful romp and a fascinating analysis of what it means to be more than what you are. Who knew that a satire of Grand Theft Auto would be so compelling? Now, it’s time to log in to GTA Online and help out all of the NPCs in the game.

Rating: 4.5/5 atoms

Free Guy hits theaters on August 13th.

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