“Free Guy” is a fantasy action film that has pulled ideas from everywhere. It is a wild mashup of a few multi-verse blockbusters, like “The Lego Movie” meeting “The Matrix.”
This is an innovative movie starring Ryan Reynolds who plays a video game character named Guy who doesn’t realize that his world isn’t real. To throw light on his situation, Guy is an NPC which means he’s a “non-playable character” with a generic background who serves as
collateral damage for a group of blood-thirsty types in a game known as “Free City,” a “Grand Theft Auto” kind of game where players are encouraged to cause mayhem as they blast their way through a virtual, urban city.
Guy is a normal guy. A bank teller with just enough street smarts to drop to the floor when confronted with a hold-up. He’s going through the motions of his life without asking the big questions and then something changes, the proverbial “red pill” conversation where his consciousness blows up and his algorithm (which drives the AI behavior) evolves, just enough to give Guy energy that he begins walking towards free will.
The movie opens with Guy narrating the rules of his world. The “sunglass people” are the heroes (Channing Tatum), while everyone else, like him, are NPC aka collateral damage, all going about their “lives” in a mundane, endless loop.
The film is co-written by Matt Lieberman (“The Addams Family”) and Zak Penn (“Ready Player One”) and there is something rather fresh in this old idea. The creative team posed the question: What would happen if Guy, an NPC, fell head-over-heels in love with one of the players, an avatar for Millie (Jodie Comer) a.k.a. Molotovgirl, whom he sees inside the game? Is love possible inside a simulation?
To keep it interesting, she’s the coder who conceived him. Now we, as an audience, have something to connect with Guy. He’s much easier to like because like most of us, he’s chasing an impossible love.
The film is directed by “Night at the Museum” helmer Shawn Levy, who manages to keep the balance between high-octane action and learning more about the world/game that Guy inhabits vs. Millie’s “real world,” where she and former programming partner Walter “Keys” McKeys (Joe Keery) have parted ways.
The plot thickens because now Keys works for Soonami (owned by Taika Waititi), the big-time gaming company that acquired their idealistic early project and, if Millie is correct, buried their code somewhere inside “Free City” instead of developing it as agreed.
Determined and brave, Millie sneaks into the game to prove that the evil developer swiped the AI engine.
The owner of Soonami is pure greed, a knee-slapping combination of all of Silicon Valley’s worst character traits. Although the character makes a rather late entrance into the story, once he’s there he practically steals every scene.
So evil and lathered with greed, he invents a larger-than-life quirk in the game that forces millions of “Free City” players around the world to upgrade to his forthcoming sequel. This will effectively wipe out Guy’s ability to change and improve his personality.
It’s a fight for the minds of the real people and the avatars in the world. Enter Keys and Soonami’s colleague Mouser (Utkarsh Ambudkar) who are virtual police officers who take out offending players, a terrifying idea even inside a movie.
Driven to win, the antagonist Antwan reboots the game to try and wipe out Guy’s brain and when that fails, he takes an ax to the server room. Gotcha!
“Free Guy” is fun. That kind of popcorn-and-candy type of movie can make your weekend pitch-perfect. Plus, this movie will make you think about what it means to wake up from our routine.