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Film Review

FREE GUY (2021) Review

Neil reviews 20th Century Studios’ FREE GUY calling it “hilariously funny and heartwarming.” Catch the film in cinemas from August 13.

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Free Guy (20th Century Studios)

Free Guy hits cinemas globally from August 13, 2021.

Synopsis

In “Free Guy,” a bank teller who discovers he is actually a background player in an open-world video game, decides to become the hero of his own story… one he rewrites himself. Now in a world where there are no limits, he is determined to be the guy who saves his world his way… before it is too late.

Review

Free Guy is another of those movies which has really suffered due to the pandemic. Originally due to release over a year ago, it’s been stuck on the back burner and finally now seeing the light of day.

Even as I sat down to watch the film the gathered press seemed to be discussing whether the film should have gone to a streaming service. My conclusion, absolutely not. Free Guy is the kind of spectacle movie which absolutely needs to be seen on a big screen.

Shawn Levy and cinematographer George Richmond have gone to great lengths to give Free Town the feel of a virtual environment. As the film shifts back-and-forth between the real world there are visual cues to help distinguish the worlds. For example, the camera in the outside world remains relatively static and conventional. Whereas in Free Town it’s much more fluid and unpredictable, as it would be in a video game. It’s these kinds of touches which left me feeling this film is exactly how Ready Player One should have been.

The film is expectedly anchored on Ryan Reynolds. His character Guy is the perfect role. He has all of the charisma and charm of Reynolds real-life persona. This is amped up by the hilarious comedy of his non-playable character (NPC) background. This feels like a role Reynolds was born to play, possibly even more so than Deadpool. It’s hard to imagine any other actor in the role.

But even with Reynolds at its core, Free Guy has a stellar supporting cast. Joe Keery confirms there’s much more to him than Steve Harrington. Keery fully embodies Keys in all aspects of the script and his relationship with Millie (Jodie Comer) really does prove to be the surprise heart of the film. As for Comer, she has great chemistry with Reynolds as well as with Keery. Millie is an extremely compelling character both inside and outside of Free Town. Displaying enough versatility to handle the film’s emotional moments alongside its action scenes.

Taika Waititi’s Antwan ends up the de-facto villain of the piece. Waititi chews at the scenery with a performance filled with seemingly improv moments. For example, his take downs of the poor Free City developers escalate wildly as the film runs on. It’s classic Waititi but does verge on poking the bear a little too hard. A joke around suffering inoperable cancer felt in poor taste, admittedly I’ve lost one parent to cancer with the other also living with it. But in the moment it felt like a joke which should have been cut.

Free Guy excels when it leans in to the absurdity of its premise. Whilst the outside world features compelling characters and a strong sense of narrative. It’s the world of Free City which will captivate audiences. In addition, the film throws a number of cameos and Easter eggs at its audience. Again much like Ready Player One. Again, Free Guy does this in a much more satisfying and engaging way.

An important factor in the success of Free Guy will be the VFX. On the whole the film looked excellent. It also provides itself with a get our a jail free card but being a glorified video game. Where it counts, Free Guy is every part the blockbuster visual spectacle it needs to be. However there are a few moments which feel a little unpolished, particularly in some of the more intricate set pieces. But really these moments are minor niggles in a film which looks and sounds amazing.

Huge credit to composer Christophe Beck, who I remember for his work on Buffy. Beck’s score is able to keep up with the action and frenetic pacing without ever distracting from the narrative.

Verdict

Free Guy proves itself to be much more than the sum of its parts. Hilariously funny and heartwarming, it’s the kind of popcorn action-adventure which will genuinely surprise its audience.


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