Free Guy is a 2021 American action comedy film directed and produced by Shawn Levy from a screenplay by Matt Lieberman and Zak Penn, and a story by Lieberman. It stars Ryan Reynolds as Guy, a bank teller who discovers he is actually a non-player character in a massively multiplayer online video game and becomes the hero of the story, trying to save his friends from deletion by the game's owner. Jodie Comer, Joe Keery, Lil Rel Howery, Utkarsh Ambudkar and Taika Waititi also star.

Free Guy
A man in a blue shirt, surrounded by the citizens of Free City, the cityscape in the background
Theatrical release poster
Directed byShawn Levy
Screenplay by
Story byMatt Lieberman
Produced by
Starring
CinematographyGeorge Richmond
Edited byDean Zimmerman
Music byChristophe Beck
Production
companies
Distributed by20th Century Studios
Release dates
  • August 10, 2021 (2021-08-10) (Locarno)
  • August 13, 2021 (2021-08-13) (United States And United Kingdom)
Running time
115 minutes[2]
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$100–125 million[3]
Box office$331.5 million[1][4]

Free Guy premiered at the Piazza Grande section of the 74th Locarno Film Festival in Switzerland on August 10, 2021.[5] Following a year-long delay because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was released theatrically in the United States and the United Kingdom three days later on August 13 in RealD 3D, IMAX, 4DX and Dolby Cinema formats by 20th Century Studios. It grossed $331.5 million worldwide. The film received generally positive reviews from critics.[6][7]

PlotEdit

Guy is a non-player character (NPC) in Free City, a massively multiplayer online role-playing video game (MMORPG) developed by Soonami Studio. Unaware that the world he lives in is a video game, he works as a bank teller alongside his best friend, the bank's security guard Buddy.

In the real world, Millie Rusk, who plays as Molotov Girl, is trying to find evidence of her source code stolen by head developer Antwan Hovachelik, while co-developer Walter "Keys" McKey works at Soonami. In the game, Millie catches Guy's attention by singing his favorite song, "Fantasy" by Mariah Carey, and he begins to deviate from his programming. Taking a pair of sunglasses from a player robbing the bank, Guy sees Free City through the player's interface and tries to catch up with Millie.

Keys and coworker Mouser, believing Guy to be a hacker disguised as an NPC, unsuccessfully try to ban him from the game. Guy soon meets Millie at the Stash, a well-guarded compound that holds evidence of her source code. Thinking Guy is a novice player, she advises him to level up after their failed break-in. Rapidly progressing the game by benevolently completing missions, he stands out from other players and becomes a worldwide sensation as "Blue Shirt Guy".

Guy helps Millie escape from the Stash after her second failed break-in. Millie is bewildered when Guy wants to kiss her, as this function is unavailable in the game. Keys reveals to Millie that Guy is truly an NPC and that his self-awareness came from artificial intelligence code containing Millie's personal preferences that Keys had included in Life Itself, the original game they developed. This led Guy to develop a romantic interest in Millie, while his interactions with other NPCs have led them to develop self-awareness.

Keys agrees to help Millie retrieve their code before Free City is wiped from Soonami's servers to make way for Free City 2. When Millie tells Guy the truth of his situation, he becomes frustrated with his reality and breaks off their relationship. After talking with Buddy, he realizes that there is something more to their reality.

With Buddy's security guard connections, they enter the Stash again, and it turns out the player who owns it is a fan of Guy, who willingly gives him the evidence, which he gives to Millie. As Guy's continued popularity threatens the launch of Free City 2, Antwan orders a reboot which temporarily removes Guy's memories. Millie restores his sentience by kissing him, and he recalls the location of the island, the only part of Life Itself and proof of Millie and Keys' original code.

As Guy and Millie travel to the island, Antwan has Mouser try to kill them, but his attempts are subverted by Keys who also streams the events. Antwan fires Keys and sends Dude, a muscular, unfinished version of Guy developed for Free City 2, into the game. Initially overwhelmed, he puts his sunglasses on Dude, distracting him and allowing Guy to reach the island.

In a last ditch attempt to stop Guy, Antwan begins smashing the game servers with a fire axe, erasing Buddy in the process, as well as firing Mouser when he objects. Before he can destroy the final server, Millie offers a deal to abandon her lawsuit, give him the rights to her code and surrender the profits of the Free City franchise to him, in exchange for the last server. Antwan accepts and the game's inhabitants are saved.

Without Millie and Keys' support, Free City 2 is a catastrophic failure at launch, while Antwan is vilified by the media and arrested for theft and criminal damage. Keys, Mouser, and Millie release Free Life using their recovered code, including Guy, Dude and the other Free City characters. In the game, Guy reveals to Millie that his code is in fact a love letter to her from Keys. Millie leaves the game, and she and Keys share a kiss. Meanwhile, Guy reunites with Buddy, and they begin to live their own lives.

CastEdit

 
Ryan Reynolds portrays Guy and Dude

The film features cameo appearances from gamers and streamers Jacksepticeye, Ninja, Pokimane, DanTDM, and LazarBeam who, in the film, provide commentary on Guy on their respective YouTube and Twitch channels from their own perspectives.[16] Actor Chris Evans, Good Morning America host Lara Spencer and, posthumously, Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek make cameo appearances as themselves.[17][18] Other voice cameos in the film include Tina Fey as Keith's vacuuming mom, Hugh Jackman as a masked avatar in an alley, Dwayne Johnson as a bank robber, and John Krasinski as a silhouetted gamer.[14][18]

ProductionEdit

DevelopmentEdit

 
Free Guy director Shawn Levy

In August 2016, Matt Lieberman spent three weeks writing the first draft of the spec script for Free Guy.[19] It was sold and entered development at 20th Century Fox prior to its acquisition by Disney. It is one of the first Fox films to continue production under Disney ownership, as well as under the studio's new name of 20th Century Studios.[20] Director Shawn Levy read the script in 2016 but passed on it. Several years later, he was introduced to Ryan Reynolds by Hugh Jackman, a mutual friend, and Levy and Reynolds decided to work on Free Guy after rereading it together.[3] Reynolds, who also produced the film, said, "I haven't been this fully immersed and engaged in something since Deadpool."[20] Levy had previously been attached to the film Uncharted, an adaptation of the video game series of the same name, before he left to make Free Guy.[21]

FilmingEdit

Principal photography began in Boston in May 2019, mostly around the city's Financial District.[22][23] It also took place in the Massachusetts cities of Worcester,[24] Framingham (in the former Framingham Savings Bank building),[25] and Weymouth (at the former Naval Air Station),[26] as well as at Revere Beach.[27]

Design and cultural referencesEdit

Levy decided to hire production designer Ethan Tobman over other candidates with more feature film experience after being inspired by the energy he brought to the project. Together they created a visual bible laying out the rules for their video game world. To split the real world from the in-game look they specified colors, lenses, composition and framing, camera movement, and other details.[21] Levy found it liberating to be influenced by other games and films but not required to make a direct adaptation of an existing franchise.[21] Tobman said the film's game-world design drew primary inspiration from games like SimCity, The Sims and Red Dead Redemption 2, while also acknowledging thematic inspiration from Grand Theft Auto and Fortnite.[28]

The film features several weapons from other video game and film franchises, including a Mega Buster, a lightsaber from the Star Wars series, one of Fortnite's pickaxes, the gravity gun from Half-Life 2, the portal gun from Portal, Captain America's shield, and Hulk's fist from Marvel Cinematic Universe. When the film was acquired by Disney, which owns the Marvel and Star Wars franchises, the filmmakers asked for permission to use such iconic weapons as a lightsaber and Captain America's shield, and were granted permission to use everything they requested.[18][28][21] The cameo by Chris Evans was suggested by Reynolds' wife Blake Lively.[29] Levy contacted Evans, who was already in Boston shooting Defending Jacob and asked if he would come by for ten minutes, and he agreed.[30]

MusicEdit

The film's score was composed by Christophe Beck.[31] Portions of the film's score are sampled from the Disney animated short film Paperman, which Beck had previously scored. Levy had originally intended to use the song "Your Love" by The Outfield, but Reynolds suggested using "Fantasy" by Mariah Carey instead.[18] Reynolds talked to Carey about getting permission to use it and she allowed them to use the song throughout the film.[32] A cover version of "Fantasy" sung by Jodie Comer was also used in the film.[18][21]

MarketingEdit

Promoting the film in 2019 Reynolds and Waititi joked that it was nice to work together for the first time, pretending that they knew nothing about the Green Lantern film.[33][34][35] In July 2021, Reynolds released a video on YouTube titled Deadpool and Korg React, in which he reprised his role as Wade Wilson/Deadpool from the X-Men film series and Waititi reprised his role as Korg from the Marvel Cinematic Universe reacting to the trailer to Free Guy.[36]

On August 12, 2021, Dude became a purchasable outfit in the video game Fortnite[37] alongside a series of optional quests placed into the game to allow players to unlock an emote with Reynolds's voice.

Free Guy's marketing team created parody posters in the style of other video games, including Super Mario 64, Minecraft, Among Us, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, Mega Man, Street Fighter II, Doom, and Animal Crossing: New Horizons.[38]

ReleaseEdit

TheatricalEdit

Free Guy was released in the United States and the United Kingdom on August 13, 2021[39] in RealD 3D, IMAX, 4DX and Dolby Cinema formats. It was the first film from Walt Disney Studios during the pandemic released exclusively to theaters for 45 days before releasing on streaming services such as Disney+ (include Premier Access) or Hulu/Disney+ Star.[40]

The film was initially scheduled to be released on July 3, 2020, but it was delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.[41][42][43] It was then moved to December 11, 2020.[44][45] In November 2020, the studio removed the film, along with Death on the Nile, from its upcoming release schedule until further notice.[46][47] The next month, the film was rescheduled to May 21, 2021.[48] In March, Ryan Reynolds announced that the film was delayed to its August date.[49]

The film premiered at the Piazza Grande section of the 74th Locarno Film Festival in Switzerland in August 2021.[5]

Home mediaEdit

Free Guy was released on digital on September 28, 2021,[50] 45 days after its theatrical release,[51] and was released on 4K,[52] DVD, and Blu-ray by Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment on October 12,[50][53] two months after its theatrical release. It will be added to Disney+ in the United States on February 23, 2022.[54]

ReceptionEdit

Box officeEdit

As of December 2, 2021, Free Guy has grossed $121.6 million in the United States and Canada, and $209.9 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $331.5 million.[1][4]

In the United States and Canada, Free Guy was released alongside Respect and Don't Breathe 2, and was initially projected to gross $15–18 million from 4,165 theaters in its opening weekend.[55] However, after making $10.5 million on its first day (including $2.2 million from Thursday-night previews), estimates were raised to $26 million. It went on to debut to $28.4 million, topping the box office.[6] The film made $18.5 million in its second weekend, remaining in first. The drop of just 34% marked the smallest second-weekend decline of any wide release of the summer, and the second-best of Reynolds' career.[56] Although it was dethroned by newcomer Candyman, the film continued to hold well in its third weekend, falling just 27% to $13.6 million.[57]

Critical responseEdit

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 80% based on 282 reviews, and an average rating of 7.00/10. The website's critics consensus reads, "Combining a clever concept, sweet, self-aware humor, and a charming cast, Free Guy is frivolous fun."[58] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 62 out of 100 based on 51 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews."[59] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale.[6]

Writing for Variety, Peter Debruge called the film an "at-times unwieldy mashup of multiple-reality blockbusters like The Matrix and The Lego Movie" and said that "Free Guy is a lot of fun, despite the fact that Levy and the screenwriters seem to be changing the rules as they go."[60] A.A. Dowd of The A.V. Club gave the film a C+ grade and said, "For all its casual mayhem, Free Guy turns out to be a rather cuddly crowdpleaser, a high-concept blockbuster trifle with bubblegum ice cream clogging its circuits." Dowd contrasted the film with The Truman Show, saying "Reynolds replicates that slightly unhinged Truman Burbank grin but not the desperation behind it."[61] Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times lauded both the "perfectly cast" Reynolds and "superb and charming Jodie Comer." Giving the film three out of four stars, he wrote "Thanks in large part to the vibrant, funny, sweet, endearing work by Reynolds and Comer, Free Guy delivers."[62]

SequelEdit

On August 14, 2021, following the film's successful first-day box-office gross, Reynolds confirmed that Disney wanted a sequel.[63][64]

ReferencesEdit

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External linksEdit