We’ve all done it at one time or another. We’ve all stopped and stared into the glassy eyes of NPCs and paused. “What are they thinking?” you ask yourself. Probably not much, to be honest. With just a few lines of speech coded in, most of them are just hollow shells. Like an empty taco, they’re dry, bland, and not that interesting on their own.
From here, we generally do one of two things: walk on by or be a dick. Sadly for these NPCs, they’re little piggy banks that dish out XP to whoever breaks them, so it’s hardly surprisingly that players around them unleash relentless fire and brimstone. They rain down all manner of fury down upon them as is our right as players; we are gods in the worlds in which play.
Such is the life of Guy (Ryan Reynolds). Our friendly neighbourhood normie is a bank teller who, despite the unbridled chaos surrounding him, lives a happy life in Free City. It’s a world where anyone wearing sunglasses (a player) is a “hero” to whom the law is “more of a vague suggestion.”
Guy wakes up every day with a smile, greets his goldfish and then grabs the same outfit from his rail of identical outfits. He grabs his regular coffee with two sugars and goes about being held up at the bank. Just like Emmet in The Lego Movie, it’s a case of same shirt, different day.
That is, until the day Guy happens across Millie (Jodie Comer) who shatters his world view. He awakens to the idea that all is not what it seems, and that he has the power to become the hero of his own story. From that point onward, spoiler lie, so suffice it to say that the rest of the cast (especially Taika Waititi and Channing Tatum) and the various cameos that pop up really knock it out of the sandbox.
It would be easy to boil this movie down to a simple story about NPCs awakening to the idea that they are background characters in a story that has already been scripted. Free Guy is so much more than that though — it’s a light-hearted satire that pokes fun at all of us. It’s an authentic love letter to gamers. Simply put, if you have ever played a video game and enjoyed it, you need to watch this movie.
Like Wreck-It Ralph, Free Guy is choc-full of memes and references. Eagle-eyed viewers will spot nods to games like Dead Space or some blatant product placement, but there are things there for the less enfranchised as well, be it Portal Guns, Mega Blasters, or even just Disney stuff (because yes, Disney owns the rights).
Whether you’re a gamer or not, you’ll no doubt smirk when you hear Millie ask Guy if that’s a Glock in his pocket, before shoving her fist into his arsenal and whipping out two shiny metal sidearms. And don’t worry if your other half doesn’t play games. Channing Tatum doing Fortnite dancing and other ludicrous moments are there to keep everyone entertained.
At this point, you may be thinking Free Guy doesn’t have an original bone in its body — and you’d be right to some degree. It is an amalgamation of things that have come before. Most of the memes and references seamlessly mesh together, held together in no small part by Guy’s Deadpool-esque humour and Detective Pikachu-level snark.
Some critics unfamiliar with games may call this lazy, but as someone who has spent the vast majority of their life watching countless first person shooters imitate Halo, then Call of Duty, Titanfall, and most recently PUBG, I see a film that stands on the shoulders of giants, points at its feet, and proudly says “Look at all the friends I’ve made.”