Matt Lieberman (“Addams Family,” 2019) and Zak Penn (“The Incredible Hulk”) have written a witty and wonderfully wholesome science fiction action thriller, “Free Guy,” that like “Tron,” takes into a video game but has plenty of humor–for gamers and non-gamers–and a charming love story of geek gets girl and features Taika Waititi as the tech genius villain.
Starring Ryan Reynolds, the film centers on a non-player character (NPC) named Guy (Reynolds) within an open-world video game, “Free City.” Guy is a bank teller who favors robin’s egg blue shirts and whose best friend is the bank’s security guard, Buddy (Lil Real Howery).
The game was originally developed by Millie Rusk (Jodie Comer) and her best friend Walter “Keys” McKeys (Joe Keery) who sold it to head developer at Soonami, Antwan Hovachelik (Taika Waititi). Antwan claims he isn’t using any of the source code and thus doesn’t owe Millie and Keys any residuals, but Millie goes within the game’s virtual world as Molotov Girl searching for proof that the source code is the basis for Soonami’s version of the game. Due to student loan debt, Keys currently works for Antwan and is no longer coding.
Within the virtual world, Guy meets Molotov Girl and falls in love which makes him deviate from his programming and eventually, he decides to join the “sunglass people” or players. The sunglasses are players’ heads-up display (HUD) and Guy realizes there’s a whole world of virtual opportunities for weapons and monetization that he couldn’t see before, but Guy is a novice level player and Molotov Girl is on a dangerous mission that requires Guy to level up.
Instead of committing acts of violence to increase his level, he does good acts and becomes a world sensation as “Blue Shirt Guy.”
In the real world, Keys and his coworker, Mouser (Utkarsh Ambudkar), believe that Guy is a hacker disguised as an NPC and try to get him to leave the program. Eventually, Keys realizes that Guy is an artificial intelligence that has gained self-awareness.
As Guy helps Molotov Girl and they close in on the truth, Antwan needs to wipe out Guy and is willing to even disrupt the game, but Molotov Girl calls on Keys in the real world for help.
I’ve watched the Blu-ray about 10 times, including the extra features. Of the film, I appreciate the casting of Waititi as the villain and not much is made of his ethnicity. His Antwan is greedy and not necessarily evil and his presence is in keeping with what we know about the diversity in tech companies. However, although a Japanese kid is interviewed dressed as “Blue Shirt Guy” to attest to Guy’s worldwide popularity, it seems there could have been more gamers of Asian descent in the cameos. That’s a minor quibble with the film itself.
- The Best Gamers in the World Now (2017)
- Top-Earning Video Gamers: The Ten Highest-Paid Players Pocketed More than $210 Million in 2019 (29 January 2020)
- Top Ten Gaming Influencers in 2021
There are cameos by Irish gamer Jacksepticeye (Seán William McLoughlin), American Ninja (Richard Tyler Blevins), Canadian Moroccan Pokimane (Imane Anys) and British DanTDM (formerly TheDiamondMinecart) (Daniel Robert Middleton) and Australian LazarBeam (Lannan Neville Eacott), but not SSSniperwolf (part Turkish Alia Marie “Lia” Shelesh) or VanossGaming (Evan Fong). Fong is listed on two of the above links.
On the 2020 list from Forbes, Fong comes in above Jacksepticeye.
The only other quibble is that Ryan Reynolds made an amusing video with Taika Waititi for to promote the film, “Deadpool and Korg React” and that along with the parody posters in the style of video games created by the “Free Guy” marketing team were not included in the extras.
Of course, I’m not a gamer. I’ve played video games as part of SDCC and other activations where I found I love killing zombies with guns and machetes, but found I enjoy conducting music through Fantasia more. I’ve also played some virtual reality experiences (Dreamscape) which I love. So I’m not an expert here, but like the idea of winning through being nice. My husband pointed out some details that I missed, but also thoroughly enjoyed this film.
“Free Guy” made its world premiere at the 74th Locarno Film festival in Switzerland on 10 August 2021. It was released theatrically in the US on 13 August 2021 by 20th Century Studios. The Blu-ray DVD was released 12 October 2021.
The F9 freebies (two) were one by an Instagram and a Twitter follower as previously announced.