Free Guy: Great for gamers, good for everyone else

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Free Guy is an action comedy starring Ryan Reynolds as the eponymous Guy that tells the story of a non-player character (NPC) in a massive multiplayer online role playing game (MMORPG) called Free City. Guy develops free will and pursues the girl of his dreams.

Backing up quickly for the sake of non-gamers, an NPC is a background character in a game who exists either as visual filler or to further the plot. An MMORPG is an online game focused around more on giving players a digital playground than trying to tell a predetermined story, World of Warcraft and Grand Theft Auto Online are two particularly notable examples. Grand Theft Auto Online in particular seems to have served as a significant inspiration for Free City. This highlights an important aspect of the film: if you did not immediately know what an NPC or MMORPG was when first reading it, some of the jokes are going to go entirely over your head. Still, I saw this with my mother, who is as far from a gamer as one can possibly get, and she still enjoyed it and caught most of the jokes.

Guy starts the movie as a bank teller whose entire existence revolves around getting up, going to work, dropping to the ground when the players of the game rob the bank, having beers on the beach with his best friend, then going home and going to bed. That this, minus the daily robberies and unfortunately the daily quality time with his best friend, could easily describe the daily grind that consumes the lives of most people in modern capitalist society goes neither unnoticed nor unremarked upon in the film. Breaking free of one’s expected role and embracing freedom is something the film explores, albeit naively, as one of its central themes. This monotony is broken up by Millie, played Jodie Comer, a game designer hunting through the game for evidence that it contains code stolen from an independently developed game she created along with Keys (played by Joe Keery) by the CEO of Tsunami (a rather blatant stand-in for Blizzard though more like Entertainment Arts in its actual behavior), Free City’s publisher. This sets him off on a whirlwind journey to seize agency and make the jump from NPC to player in order to win Millie’s affection.

All in all, 4 out of 5.

A solid film for all, a must see for gamers.