Released: 12th August
Seen: 29th September
The video game movie is obscenely hard to get right, some might suggest that it’s impossible because once you remove the players’ ability to influence the action then you fundamentally change the story to the point where any adaptation just won’t work… I’d suggest it’s just because the people making movies don’t know anything about video games other than they make money, so why not make a movie about them.
Things can go horribly wrong, from the story not suiting the game (Hi Sonic) to the actors being horribly cast (Super Mario Brothers… both live action and the upcoming animated versions honestly. Seriously, Chris Pratt is Mario, that’s a thing that’s happening), it’s so easy to screw up. Then along comes Free Guy to do a video game movie absolutely perfectly.
Free Guy takes place in a little town called Free City where a guy named Guy (Ryan Reynolds) has a perfect life. See, Guy works in a bank and every day he gets up, says hi to his fish, has a coffee, goes to the bank and then gets robbed half a dozen times by cool heroes in sunglasses who also blow things up all the time and sometimes shoot Guy in the face.
Guy is a video game character, that’s the conceit of the film. He’s an NPC (non-playable character) in a Grand Theft Auto-esque game that is obscenely popular. One day Guy spots an actual human player, Millie (Jodie Comer) and decides to follow her. Guy’s programming has changed, allowing him to make his own decisions and Guy seems to have decided that he finally wants to be the hero of his own game.
From the second Free Guy boots up and starts playing, it’s pretty much perfect. There’s a sincere love of video games and video game culture that just emanates from every second of the film. It’s a big fun silly hug from the medium of film to the medium of games and goddamn is it just pure joy. It’s hard to do anything other than smile like a moron when Fantasy by Mariah Carey plays while you’re watching ‘video game characters’ do sick burnouts in front of exploding buildings… because that’s just a goddamn amazing way to open a film and it never slows down from there.
Wall to wall explosions is practically guaranteed by Free Guy and if all you want is pure spectacle then we’ve got you covered, but between things blowing up and the comical video game violence is this pure heartwarming story about making your own choices and living your life for yourself and not for some big evil corporation (brought to you by Disney). It’s obscenely charming from start to finish.
That charm comes courtesy of possibly Ryan Reynolds best performance, which is saying a lot. He’s basically taken Deadpool and then done a bunch of nitrous so he’s permanently happy while breaking the fourth wall and making reference jokes and it’s the best thing he’s done, same with Jodie Comer who manages to be so good that when she jumps into her second role I legit thought it was another actor.
Joe Kerry makes his character a quiet hero who you grow to love throughout the film and Taika Waititi… well, I’m pretty sure they just turned the camera on and said, “Do whatever the fuck you want” and god did the rest. This is one hell of a cast, it’s not even a little shock to me that there’s already talk about a sequel because who wouldn’t want to put this cast together again?
Every single thing about Free Guy just works, it throws in some absolutely amazing subtle video game jokes (Look for the skybox underneath the road towards the end of the film, it’s a subtle thing but I loved that detail), topical jokes about gun violence and how some gamers (SOME! SPECIFICALLY SOME! Do not come for me on this one) are assholes and even great use of Disney properties for one-off gags.
Free Guy might be one of the first films since Wreck-It Ralph 2 to realise “Oh wait, we’re owned by the mouse and the mouse owns everything which means we have a giant toy box full of IP we can play with”, and oh boy does Free Guy know how to play with the extra IP it has access too.
Free Guy is nothing short of pure joy. It has the laughs, the action and the heart that you don’t really expect to see in video game films. It’s unbelievably good, better than you could imagine. This is the kind of film that feels like it has a million potholes it could’ve fallen down and it skipped over every single one with ease to just be an absolute delight in every possible way. I don’t know how they’re going to level up the fun factor in the sequel, but I’m eager to see where this story goes.