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‘Free Guy’ Proves a Runaway Success: Charming Ryan Reynolds Vehicle Makes Most of Return to Cinema

The film industry has suffered severe damage during the peak periods of the coronavirus pandemic, arguably it’s a market that was more negatively affected than most. 

However with movie goers now returning to multiplexes, it seems that the movie business is getting a new lease of life and the massive success of ‘Free Guy’, the Ryan Reynolds helmed comedy is testament to the power of seeing a film in all its glory on the big screen and not at home or on your device.

The film pitches itself somewhere between a less subtle ‘Truman Show’ and a PG rated ‘Deadpool’, and it’s proven a massive hit with audiences and even the critics and it is, at least, a rare original concept for a Hollywood film.

Our lead, Guy (Reynolds) plays a hapless character who doesn’t realise he’s living within a video game, but is made to realise over the course of a two hour movie that is very entertaining. 

Our hero, Guy, finally gets the idea when given a pair of glasses that show him just what is going on in the world he inhabits, and that’s when the hilarity, and over the top action sequences, kick in. 

During the course of the film he teams up with Molotov Girl/Millie Rusk (Jodie Comer), who is wearing some killer specs, which may well become a much replicated set of eye glass frames for women, almost certainly set to become the next most popular fancy dress outfit for the ladies.

Indeed the glasses theme is pretty much a key aspect of how our characters see their perceived worlds, which is the analogy being offered to the audiences, in not such a subtle manner.

As you might expect, it’s the supporting cast that really gets your funny bones fully tickled. Special mention must go out to Taika Watiti’s display as egomaniac head developer Antwan, who steals every scene he’s placed within.

Similarly we were amused by the performance put in by Joe Keery, as Walter ‘Keys’ McKeys, who proved that he may well have a career outside the television juggernaut that is ‘Stranger Things’.

Lil Rel Howery, as Guy’s friend Buddy, adds some pathos to the narrative and is also incredibly funny and on point, and it’s these supporting players that make the film more than just the gimmick that it hangs on.

Reynolds also managed to wrangle in some of his celebrity mates to put in some solid cameos; Chris Evans, Channing Tatum, Hugh Jackman, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and John Krasinski all make brief appearances.

The premise is a relatively strong one, think Tron but as a comedy but kind of in reverse, and as a bit of fun it can’t be faulted. Comparisons with ‘The Truman Show’ though are somewhat laughable, as the two couldn’t be less similar in their direction, even if the ideas are somewhat connected.

Unsurprisingly when Guy realises he is in a world of make believe, like Pinocchio before him, he decides he wants to make an impact, to be real. More importantly he wants to be more than incidental to the action, he wants to be a catalyst, a change giver, and a hero.

The effects are of course spot on and even when they go too over the top CGI, i.e. whenever Guy is wearing his glasses, it’s okay because remember they are inside a video game.

The conclusion isn’t a surprise, indeed nothing here is a game changer, everything pans out how you expect it to. What works are the set pieces and the very one-dimensional aspect to all the characters. 

It’s not a movie that is going to make you reassess your part in the world, which is kind of the message of the story, as it deliberately doesn’t delve too far down the rabbit hole, after all it’s a bit of Hollywood fun. 

It’s very much a movie made for a post-pandemic world, it’s light, airy and doesn’t require a great deal of thinking. It’s entertaining and in mid-2021 that’s just fine by us.

The movie has made more money than ‘Suicide Squad’ from their respective opening weekends, and made $17m over it’s first few days and those numbers are pretty impressive as the film market slowly starts to return to some level of normalcy. 

Ryan Reynolds has, to some extent, proved that he is more than a one-trick pony though it’s fair to say that his shtick, smart talking charmer, isn’t that far removed in his role as Guy. 

Indeed when watching ‘Free Guy’ you are always half-expecting Reynolds to go into a full-on expletive mode, but the ‘Deadpool’ star does deliver as the lead and his comedic timing isn’t in doubt. Comer impresses in her two-parter, but again her Molotiv Girl role is partly similar to her hugely successful turn in ‘Killing Eve’.

In short, both leads are playing to their strengths and director Shawn Levy, best known for his Night at the Museum trilogy, is a reliable hand at the wheel of this pleasant, if not groundbreaking, film. 

Expect a sequel. 

Pip Ellwood-Hughes
Pip Ellwood-Hughes
Pip is the Editor of Entertainment Focus and the Managing Director of agency Piñata Media.

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