Ryan Reynolds might have the Midas touch, but not everything he’s in turns to gold. I’ll reference Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard. The less said about that, the better. But Reynolds has made a career out of playing characters that are a bit “out there” notably as Hannibal in Blade: Trinity and the foul-mouthed Deadpool. The latter really put him in Hollywood’s A-List, and I’m sure it’s a character he’ll never live down. And he shouldn’t. So when I heard about Free Guy, I wasn’t sure what to think. I knew that it, like so many other films, had been delayed but that wait was over. A non-playable character coming to life in a video game? It sounded familiar, but I was intrigued nonetheless. Essentially if you take some parts of The Truman Show, They Live, Ready Player One, Pleasantville and, yes even a bit of Pixels – this is what you get. Let’s play.
Guy (Ryan Reynolds) is an NPC (non-playable character) in a violent video game called “Free City.” He doesn’t know this, of course as he’s a mild-mannered bank employee who loves his fish, coffee and bubble gum-flavored ice cream. His best friend Buddy (Lil Rel Howery) works at the bank as well. Guy’s world is blown when he sees MolotovGirl (Jodie Comer), someone who he’s immediately attracted to. This is her avatar and in real life she’s a game designer with her colleague Walter (Joe Keery). They’re tried to sell their game to a large company, but Antwan (Taika Waititi), the obnoxious CEO has stolen it for use of his own game. Things change when Guy procures a pair of sunglasses and suddenly sees all the things he’s not supposed to (objectives, health packs, hidden areas, and so forth). He starts to level up his abilities at MolotovGirl’s direction. This catches the eye of players around the world as he’s, well, an NPC! Guy, along with MolotovGirl’s help, must try and break free before Antwan erases the code.
There’s a lot going on in Free Guy and I suppose it’s only logical. It’s meant to mimic a video game and though I’m no expert, it’s hard to take in everything going on there. But it manages to work. What really makes the film work is that the film and filmmakers are very knowledgeable about video games, it’s the key component to the film’s success. Reynolds shows he can play a sensitive everyman, but can kick a little ass when and if he needs to (the fight with Dude is something that must be witnessed to be appreciated). Director Shawn Levy, best-known for his work on Night at the Museum and Real Steel is right at home here. He and Reynolds (who brought him the script) seem to be having a good time doing what they’re doing. You don’t have to be a video game aficionado, but it helps. And that’s the greatest thing about this film, it works on all levels.
Video: How’s it look?
When a movie takes place in a video game (for all intents and purposes), it’s a bit difficult to get a legitimate read on how things are supposed to look. Granted, the video game itself looks like any other film and I have to say that this looks flat out amazing. The razor sharp detail, the blacker blacks and whiter whites (thanks to the HDR, of course) really make the entire image pop. There are several segments where the video game architecture is overlaid on the “real world” and there’s literally so much detail, I had to pause and look at the screen. Flesh tones are warm and natural as well. Free Guy looks the part, to be sure.
Audio: How’s it sound?
Not to be outdone, the Dolby Atmos mix ups the ante. As we might imagine with a “video game” movie, there are plenty of opportunities with fighting, guns blaring, motorcycles revving and everything in between. Vocals are top notch as well. One thing that really got me were the surround and atmospheric effects. They had my head turning this way and that and at my age, that’s not always a good thing! Disney has been criticized by audiophiles in the past for their lackluster Dolby Atmos tracks, but I can’t find anything to gripe about here. It delivers.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Creating Molotovgirl – Jodie Comer transforms from a brilliant programmer to her fierce avatar in Free Guy. Watch as the award-winning action star and filmmakers deconstruct the conceptualization, evolution and execution of bringing Molotovgirl to life.
Dude vs. Guy – Join Ryan Reynolds, director Shawn Levy and the creative and stunt teams as they reveal the innovative process of creating Free Guy‘s ultimate showdown between Guy and the wildly amped-up, spray-tanned, frosted-tipped version of himself known as Dude.
It’s Taika’s World – Free Guy‘s outrageous action may exist in a virtual world, but Taika Waititi makes the real world just as crazy with the over-the-top Antwan. See him at work in this entertaining showcase of a genuinely talented and hilarious performer.
Deleted and Extended Scenes – Three total, I kind of wish these were included.
Guy and Buddy Hit the Beach
Hot Nuts Get Blown
NPC Rally (Extended)
Gag Reel – I think we all know what to expect from these at this point.
Trailers – Three total.
The Bottom Line
All I knew about Free Guy was that it came out about six weeks before the disc landed at my doorstep. That’s usually not a good sign. But I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised. It’s clever, fun (and funny) and Reynolds delivers yet another exceptional performance. This is one I’ll watch once a year, for sure. As usual, Disney’s disc is second to none with reference-quality audio and video.