Free Guy

Review by Rich Cline | 4/5

Free Guy
dir Shawn Levy
scr Matt Lieberman, Zak Penn
prd Shawn Levy, Ryan Reynolds, Greg Berlanti, Adam Kolbrenner, Sarah Schechter
with Ryan Reynolds, Jodie Comer, Lil Rel Howery, Taika Waititi, Joe Keery, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Channing Tatum, Britne Oldford, Anabel Graetz, Camille Kostek, Aaron W Reed, Alex Trebek
release US/UK 13.Aug.21
21/US 20th Century 1h55

howery waititi keery

Is it streaming?

comer and reynolds
A rare original blockbuster that's not set up as a franchise-starter, this is a blast of fresh air. And not just because it features the effortlessly likeable Ryan Reynolds. Ingeniously conceived and designed, it's a satisfying mix of action, romantic-comedy and bromance. And director Shawn Levy keeps it hilarious and pacy without forcing the jokes or action set-pieces. It even has a nice message woven deeply into the narrative.
A bank teller in Free City, Guy (Reynolds) doesn't know that he's a non-playing videogame character. Each day is the same, with the usual coffee and armed holdup, which he enjoys with security guard Buddy (Howery). Then he spots Millie (Comer), literally the girl of his dreams, and he breaks out of his proscribed role, discovering the thrill of playing the game himself. The hitch is that in real life Millie is actually one of Free City's designers. And she's seeking proof that company boss Antoine (Waititi) stole the code she wrote with Keys (Keery).
Along with following Guy's increasing independent-mindededness, the film flickers back to the real world where Keys and his colleague-friend Mouser (Ambudkar) take different approaches to the clash between Millie and Antoine. And this tension spills back into the game, creating a series of outrageous clashes and action sequences that are designed with a thrillingly elaborate sense of detail. The effects are seamless, bursting with digital gags to go along with the human ones.

The role isn't a stretch for Reynolds, because he's expert at loveably oblivious self-deprecation. Guy's a blank slate who begins to discover a personality, which makes his journey a lot of fun, especially alongside terrific characters played by the gifted Comer and Howery. Both of them have a ball lampooning (and deepening) their usual typecasting. And in the real world, Waititi riotously steals scenes with his offhanded riffs and privileged pout, while Keery and Ambudkar have their moments as well.

References and cameos are everywhere, including nods to fellow Disney realms. These add to the involving narrative, exhilarating visuals and witty action, while story elements work on multiple thematic levels. So if the overall plot is vaguely predictable, there's plenty of entertainment in how it comes together. And as a reminder that life can be so much more than tedium, the movie feels like a healing balm. Hopefully cast and crew follow their own advice and make another all-new movie, rather than strain to make a sequel.

cert 12 themes, language, violence 5.Aug.21

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© 2021 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall