Tuesday Review – Free Guy (2021)

films, reviews

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Do you remember a few weeks ago when Matt Damon tried to tell us that leading men were no longer a thing? Meaning that audiences only care about franchises and not who is in a film. Of course, what he was actually saying is that audiences don’t care when he’s in a film any more. After all, there is plenty of evidence that goes against what he’s saying. The star of today’s film is more than enough evidence to the contrary. Deadpool wasn’t a success because it’s a comic book movie. That didn’t hurt it, obviously, but it wasn’t the reason for the success. Ryan Reynolds played a huge part in making that film everything that it became. In fact, I’d say that Ryan Reynolds is one of the biggest and most consistent draw for film audiences. It’s no wonder it’s been doing so well since its release.

After all, the premise wouldn’t necessarily have been that exciting with another actor in the main role. I mean, who has ever asked themselves what would happen if you combined The Truman Show with Ready Player One. Nobody wanted it and nobody needed it. Even director Shawn Levy originally rejected the script. It wasn’t until he met Ryan Reynolds that Levy thought about working on the film. So, you see, Ryan Reynolds is the kind of actor who not only brings in audiences but people in the film industry. But can he make this film work? I’m in two minds about it. Part of me enjoyed watching Free Guy but the other half thought it was dreadful. It’s a really strange feeling.

Admittedly, it’s a lot of fun but that would be obvious to anyone who knows the premise. Guy is an NPC (non-playable character) in an open world video game. He is the kind of character that every gamer will recognise. He has a key phrase that he repeats through every interaction and has no free will. When people come to rob the bank he works for, Guy will willingly lie on the floor and have a chat with his co-worker friend. He’s quite content. Until he bumps into Molotov. Guy falls for the pretty young action gun slinger and decides to follow her. In doing so, he learns about the true nature of his world and what lies beyond the NPC boundaries. He also learns that, on the outside world, Molotov has a quest that she needs to carry out. Could Guy hold the key to everything?

So far, so much like The Truman Show. What makes Free Guy stand out from that Jim Carrey classic is that this one lacks heart. This film seems so afraid of being sentimental that it doesn’t allow Guy to have the same developement as Truman did. You never really get to know him before his world is turned upside down and he adjusts super quickly. Instead of having a real world shattering moment, he just Mary Sues himself to level 100. THe problem is, Ryan Reynolds just brings a certain level of charm and wit to every role. It’s not that he’s a bad actor but it’s just charisma. You never get a sense of his vulnerability because he’s always ready with another quip. This film just lacks something.

Even when the reason that Molotov is on her journey is revealed, there isn’t any depth there. Taika Waititi plays the unscrupulous game developer but it’s just Taika let loose. It isn’t the grand takedown of the gaming industry that people are making it seem. It’s just a funny man being allowed to be funny. In the same way that Ryan Reynolds is a funny guy being allowed to be funny. It’s enjoyable but it’s not necessarily enjoyable for the right reasons. There’s just not much for any of the actors to work with. The premise is quite thin and doesn’t allow much room for development.

However, I can’t deny that it is a lot fun. It’s silly and self-aware. It’s stupid and wonderful entertainment. Free Guy is the kind of brash and loud film that allows you to tune out the world and forget the awful things. And it does try to push some emotional depth with Guy and his best friend. The overall focus on friendship is quite refreshing. I’m not sure I completely buy the chemistry between the pair but it works. It’s sweet and it really does try hard. I guess it has that underdog spirit that people warm to. Plus, Jodie Comer is phenomenal as always. Yet, I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed for the film that this could so easily have been.

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