The idea that we might all be living in a simulated world is revisited anew in Shawn Levy‘s 2021 film Free Guy, Levy’s film draws heavily on depictions of a synthetic universe as originally portrayed in such groundbreaking films as 1999’s The Matrix (Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne) and The 13th Floor (Craig Bierko, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Gretchen Mol). Delivering adrenalized explosions and laugh out loud moments, Free Guy is a fun-filled sci-fi action comedy and one of the biggest surprises to come out of 2021.
Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool) stars as an average guy who works as a bank teller in Free City, and has to deal with his daily routine: wake up, put on a blue shirt with a “Guy” nametag on it, get coffee, go to work, get robbed. To most people, it would be alarming to see someone parachute into the driver’s seat of a convertible next to a hot blond before hitting the gas pedal and opening fire with a semi-automatic. For Guy and Free City, that is just a Monday. It’s no wonder that he dreams of something more.
One day, after working up the courage to break an unspoken rule by speaking to one of the “sunglasses people” — the characters who seem to have all the fun — Guy stops the day’s bank robbery at work and takes his would-be assailant’s eyewear. Putting the glasses on his own face, he is shown a whole new layer of his own reality, as his environment is now filled with signs, health points, labels and power-ups. Forming a friendship with Millie a.k.a. Molotovgirl (Jodie Comer: Star Wars: Episode IX), Guy learns that he is a non-playable character inside a popular online video game. The now self-aware NPC sets out to level up, so that he can be the type of hero his artificial world needs.
Merging the idea of an online gaming universe and a self-aware character inside a computer program, Free Guy is a brilliant comedic, action adventure mashup of Ready Player One (Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke) and The Matrix. This makes sense considering Ready Player One screenplay writer Zak Penn contributed to this script. And, humorously imitating the ridiculous world of online gaming, Channing Tatum (21 Jump Street) makes a few appearances as a gamer who dominates Free City with the username Revenjamin Buttons. Other laughter invoking scenarios and absurd moments include over-the-top action, numerous gags and puns, and a police chase with a giant pink bunny along for the ride.
Bringing out the comedy aspect with his brand of laughs, Reynolds perfectly portrays happy-go-lucky Guy whose eyes are open to a whole new world as he politely stops crime one bad guy at a time. Although the graphic images are dialed down, Reynolds brings some Deadpool style humor to his character … excluding the cursing. After all, Free Guy is rated PG-13 making it an adventurous blast for a family-friendly movie night that everyone over the age of 13 can enjoy.
Realistically, had Reynolds not been attached to this project, I would have given it a pass, shrugging it off as likely generic and highly forgettable. However, the aforementioned actor’s hilarious portrayal of the merc with a mouth is enough for me to give any action comedy with Reynolds as a lead a chance. And I’m glad I did. Winning 3 awards and earning 14 nominations, including Best Comedy and Best Family Film, Free Guy is easily the most overlooked and underrated film of 2021.
Free Guy is now available on the Disney+ streaming service.