Ryan Reynolds action adventure Free Guy veers from 'delirious delight' to 'slam-bang spectacle'
FREE GUY (12A, 115 mins) Action/Fantasy/Adventure/Comedy/Romance. Ryan Reynolds, Jodie Comer, Joe Keery, Lil Rel Howery, Taika Waititi, Utkarsh Ambudkar. Director: Shawn Levy.
Released: August 13 (UK & Ireland)
PROFESSIONAL video game players including DanTDM, Jacksepticeye, LazarBeam and Pokimane have amassed millions of loyal subscribers on video sharing platforms with their pithy gameplay commentaries.
Several of these internet personalities enjoy knowing cameos in Free Guy, which reconfigures hard coding from Tron, Wreck-It Ralph, The Truman Show and Deadpool as an explosive action adventure set in a battle royale-style game similar to Fortnite.
The titular hero, a non-player character (NPC) portrayed with boundless charm by Ryan Reynolds, is blissfully unaware that he exists inside a game or that the "sunglasses people" who repeatedly gate-crash his metropolis are the avatars of players from around the world.
Shawn Levy's film is a delirious, whooping delight in those early scenes, which depict Guy walking calmly and cheerfully through the mounting devastation without blinking an eye.
Reynolds savours every blank-faced glance of his loveable innocent, who does not question the infinite loop of his existence until he steals a pair of sunglasses to impress a girl and "levels up" with the hand-to-hand combat skills and tactical nous that will transform him from ones and zeroes to gung-ho hero.
Matt Lieberman and Zak Penn's irreverent script loses its way as Guy becomes master of his own destiny rather than a slave to his programming and the digital wheels really come off in an overblown denouement that sacrifices tenderness and humanity at the altar of slam-bang spectacle.
Thirtysomething bachelor Guy (Reynolds) wakes every morning to the sound of helicopter gunfire in Free City. He cheerfully greets his goldfish, dons the same blue shirt and comfortable khaki trousers and heads to the local bank, where he works as a teller.
Best friend Buddy (Lil Rel Howery) is a security guard and several times a day, strangers in sunglasses rob the bank without resistance from the staff.
On his way to work one morning, Buddy glimpses Molotov Girl (Jodie Comer) and is smitten. He is unaware that this vision of gun-toting beauty is the avatar of disgruntled programmer Millie, who hopes to unearth evidence buried in Free City that publishers Soonami, owned by Antwan (Taika Waititi), stole computer code that she originated with partner Keys (Joe Keery).
Guy's world spins off its axis when he realises that he is an NPC.
"I may not be real but for a second there, I felt pretty alive!" he tells Molotov Girl and they join forces to bring down Antwan.
For the opening hour, Free Guy is an absolute blast and Reynolds trades heavily on his nice guy person and mischievous sense of humour to endear us to his unsuspecting protagonist.
Once plot machinations kick in, oscillating back and forth between Free City and the real world, Levy's picture glitches and the lack of depth to Comer's spunky heroine becomes disappointingly apparent.