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We Are Living in the Reynoldssance

A review of Free Guy

I went to see Free Guy on a particularly hot late afternoon not expecting too much from the film but still enticed by its cast. I have to say, I was very pleasantly surprised. The film’s premise: a bank teller discovers that he's actually an NPC or non-player (background) character, which is mentioned again and again during the film, inside of a pretty brutal, open-world video game. This bank teller then decides to become the “hero of his own story” -- one that he can rewrite himself. That hero, friends, is none other than Ryan Reynolds. Free Guy is directed by Shawn Levy (Stranger Things) and stars Ryan Reynolds along with star on the rise, Jodie Comer (Killing Eve).

In Free Guy, Ryan Reynolds and Lil Rel Howery play Guy and Buddy, a bank teller and a security guard who are best buds. Every day they meet up on their way to work, drink coffee, and basically wait for their bank to be robbed. The “people wearing sunglasses” are the main characters in their world - robbing banks, meeting attractive women, and driving off in stolen cars. For the most part, Guy (Reynolds) awakens every day happy to be alive. He says good morning to his fish “Goldie,” eats his breakfast, and puts on his usual uniform: a blue shirt and tie, before going to work at the bank. Reynolds, who may be better known these days for his role as Deadpool, does a fantastic job portraying the sweeter Guy. There’s no sarcasm or lewd jokes coming out of Guy’s mouth. He’s honest, sincere, and a bit of a romantic. One day he starts to realize that maybe he wants more out of his life. He starts small. He tries to order a CAPPUCCINO at his local coffee shop. This almost causes a riot.

Guy contemplates the bank robberies that happen at his job and why he never does anything to stop them. He talks to his best friend, Buddy, about how he wants to find love and maybe more than their usual routine. The major catalyst for change comes when he and Buddy pass a woman on the street singing the same song Guy listens to daily: “Fantasy” by Mariah Carey. The woman is known as “Molotov Girl.” She’s one of the sunglass people. Guy breaks routine and tries to follow her but he ends up being hit by a train and waking up the next morning in his bed like nothing ever happened. But one day, during their usual bank robbery, Guy decides to take matters into his own hands. Guy finally gets some sunglasses and starts making his own decisions. That’s when he really wakes up.

While Free Guy is certainly no A.I., it does consider the concept of artificial intelligence and what it means to be alive. It also addresses the idea of creation and creative property through its characters Millie (Jodie Comer, the “real-life” Molotov Girl) and Keys (Joe Keery), two friends and programmers whose original game is stolen by the movie’s villain, Antwan, (Taika Waititi who is always a ridiculous pleasure to watch). Keys and Millie always wanted to create a computer-generated character that could learn and grow and evolve on its own. When Guy starts to deviate from his role as an NPC, they start to realize that he (the mundane everyman in the blue shirt) might be it. Watching Guy figure out how to take his life into his own hands, even when he makes mistakes (or because we get to watch him make mistakes), is truly a delight.

Free Guy is definitely a summer blockbuster of a film. The cameos (both physical and voice-over) are great. I won’t spoil any of them since they were some of my favorite moments within the film. The set vacillates between the cramped offices and dark apartments of the game programmers and the huge, bright, coo coo bananas world where Guy lives. While this film certainly borrows from several others (The Truman Show, The Matrix, Wreck-It Ralph to name just a few), I think it comes off more as an homage to the game genre than it does as a rip-off. Part of the reason that sincerity comes through is because of its performances by Reynolds, Comer, and Keery. The film’s moral is to be an active participant in your own life - whether that is Buddy and Guy inside of their game world or Millie and Keys outside of it. This movie is fun. You hear me out there? It’s FUN! Remember fun? It’s okay that it is not on the Oscar shortlist.

Free Guy is really one of the first big summer blockbuster movies to only be released in the theater since the pandemic, and that begs the question, should you go see it in the theater, or wait for it to come out on streaming services? I say, go check it out. I give it a Saturday matinee price as my recommendation. The characters are fun. Ryan Reynolds is both a treat and a snack, and it brought a smile to my face after a stressful week of work. What more can you ask for?


Diana DiMuro

Associate Editor

Besides watching TV and movies, Diana likes plants, the great outdoors, drawing and reading comics, and just generally rocking out. She has a BA in English Literature and is an art school dropout. You can follow her on Instagram @dldimuro and Twitter @DianaDiMuro




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