Review: Free Guy (2021)

Director: Shawn Levy
Screenwriters: Matt Lieberman, Zak Penn
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Jodie Comer, Taika Waitit, Joe Keery, Lil Rel Howery
Genres: Comedy, Sci-fi
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for strong fantasy violence throughout, language, and crude/suggestive references
Release Date: 8/13/21
Runtime: 1:55
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 82%
Where to Watch: Theatres

Shawn Levy’s Free Guy is yet another film whose release was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic — well over a year, in fact. Its star, Ryan Reynolds, has been [seemingly] ceaselessly been promoting the movie on social media since the first trailer was released. The film has stayed at #1 at the box office ever since its release, and it’s easy to see why: Reynolds has a lot of movie star appeal, as does Killing Eve Emmy winner Jodie Comer. Plus, many of us can easily relate to the stuck-in-a-loop feeling that the main character, Reynolds’ Guy, experiences, as a non-player character (NPC) stuck in a popular game. It is also similar to the beloved film The Truman Show, in that the main character realizes that his world is fabricated and that things are not as they seem. 

Based on the talent involved, as well as the clever and silly premise, I was intrigued. Plus, the strong Rotten Tomatoes score (82%) didn’t hurt. Turns out, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed Free Guy, so much so that it may end up being one of my favorite films of the year. That’s not to say that it’s perfect, which it most certainly isn’t, but as far as entertaining, summer blockbusters go, this one hits the spot. 20th Century Fox, which is now owned by Disney, was smart to only release the film in theatres (and not on any streaming platform), as it should be enjoyed in a cinema with other moviegoers. I’m one of those people who’s not afraid to laugh, clap, and react in other ways to the events that transpire in a movie. 

It’s probably best to know as little as possible, although Reynolds himself has been spoiling some of the cameos recently, with the assumption that everyone who has wanted to see the movie has already seen it. I’d advise against reading his recent Tweets and Instagram posts, and not looking at the film’s IMDb page, which features a major spoiler-y quote. There was one huge, unexpected cameo that appeared towards the end that had me laughing and applauding. Cameos aside, though, Free Guy is a very entertaining film in its own right, and Reynolds is at his charming, goofy best as a Truman Show-like character.

The film succeeds the most in its gags and jokes, which sometimes seem a mile a minute (can you keep up?). Co-screenwriters Matt Lieberman and Zak Penn — and, I’m assuming, Reynolds, who’s known to ad-lib — were smart to focus on the zany premise and antics of its characters. In fact, sometimes I was laughing so loudly and for a substantial enough amount of time that I may have missed the next joke/gag. And, surprisingly, where other films that take place in reality and fantasy scenarios end up making reality far less interesting, Lieberman and Penn have also made the real-world setting engaging and interesting. However, the more dramatic moments don’t always land, as they often seemingly come out of nowhere; regardless, Reynolds, Comer, and Stranger Things‘ Joe Keery all sell the material. Even when you can guess where the story is headed and what kind of relationships will be revealed and developed, it’s still a fun journey. 

Comer, in her first sizable big-screen role, is an absolute firecracker and steals scenes, especially when portraying her alter ego in the gaming world. She dials up the campiness when needed, and also utilizes a convincing American accent in the real-world settings. Also, it’s nice to see Keery is something a bit more interesting, even if his character’s motivations and actions are somewhat predictable at times. I also can’t forget the always delightful and funny Lil Rel Howery (Get Out), as Guy’s best friend who’s also an NPC. Some might say that Taika Waititi’s character — who’s the CEO of the gaming company and a world-class jerk — is over the top in his mannerisms, but I found him positively hilarious and entertaining, and he gets to keep his native New Zealand accent. 

Free Guy is the kind of movie I wish I could watch again for the first time, not necessarily in the vein of Avengers: Endgame or really any Marvel movie, but it certainly has its fun surprises and twists. I’m excited to watch it again, hopefully with someone who’s never seen it before. It has its cliche moments, to be sure, but that’s kind of the point.