[Screen It]


(2021) (Ryan Reynolds, Jodie Comer) (PG-13)

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Sci-Fi/Action-Comedy: A man learns that he's a character in a video game and does what he can to prevent it from being shut down.

Guy (RYAN REYNOLDS) leads a seemingly ordinary life as a bank teller where every day seems like the rest, including interacting with the bank's security guard, Buddy (LIL REY HOWERY). But things change when he sees an exotic-looking woman known as Molotov Girl (JODIE COMER), and that breaks him out of his routine, much to the shock and concern of those with whom he interacts daily. What he doesn't realize is that Molotov Girl is really just the "Free City" game avatar for computer programmer Millie (JODIE COMER).

She's inside the game looking for proof that Sodnami Studios CEO Antwan (TAIKA WAITITI) stole the coding for another game she created with her former programming partner, Walter "Keys" McKeys (JOE KEERY), and incorporated it into "Free City." Key works alongside his friend Mouser (UTKARSH AMBUDKAR) for Antwan and believes Millie should give it a rest with the allegations, but she perseveres, all of which eventually leads Guy to learn that he's nothing more than an NPC (non-player character) inside the game. Albeit one who's now become self-aware.

With Antwan initially enjoying the attention that brings to his game but then realizing it could negatively impact his upcoming sequel, he orders his workers to find and remove Guy from the game in any necessary manner. All of which means that Guy must figure out what's going on and prevent that -- and the shutting down of the game overall -- before it's too late.

OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10

Considering that most of the world's population believes in some sort of religious higher power calling the shots of our day-to-day lives, it's no surprise that philosophers and later fiction writers put a spin on that and questioned what we perceive as reality. In short, they wondered -- and continue to do so -- whether our world is just an artificial construct designed to make us think it's real when it's not and instead exists for another purpose.

In "The Matrix," Keanu Reeves' Neo character learns that his world is just an illusion that the machines are pumping into people's heads while using them as subdued energy sources. In "The Truman Show," Jim Carrey's title character learns that his entire life and everything in it is just part of a reality TV show. And now in "Free Guy," Ryan Reynolds' character questions whether there's more to life than the repetitive nature of his bank teller existence.

He gets his answer and more in this entertaining and enjoyable diversion that works as much due to Reynold's brand of charismatic, quick-witted quirkiness as it does from the screenplay by Matt Lieberman and Zak Penn or direction of Shawn Levy. Simply put, if you enjoy the character persona Reynolds has honed in flicks such as the "Deadpool" and "Hitman's Bodyguard" movies, you'll likely enjoy what's offered here.

Reynolds plays Guy, a bank teller who wakes up every morning cheery and ready to go, despite every day seemingly playing out exactly like the one before it and so on and so on. That includes getting the same cup of Joe before having the same bank robbers show up, resulting in Guy and his security guard friend Buddy (Lil Rey Howery) lying face down on the floor and nonchalantly chatting while shotguns blast the ceiling and teller windows.

That repetition changes, though, when a new person comes into view, and while he doesn't yet know her name, Guy is instantly smitten with Molotov Girl (Jodie Comer), her leather pants, and her carefree attitude in the face of danger. Little does he know that she's really the avatar for Millie, a game programmer in the real world who's poking around inside the popular video game "Free City" looking for clues that game studio CEO Antwan (a deliciously over the top Taika Waititi) stole the earlier work that she created with her former programming partner, Keys (Joe Keery).

All of which means Guy is nothing more than an NPC (non-player character) in the game, present simply as filler for those real-world players who are doing their thing inside the game. This isn't a spoiler as it's revealed in the film's trailer and then not long into the film when Guy gets his hands on a pair of sunglasses that show the real (game) world in which he exists.

From that point on, he pares up with Molotov Girl to help her on her quest, all while Antwan wants Keys and his buddy coworker, Mouser (Utkarsh Ambudkar), to shut down the now sentient character and his unpredictable wild card behavior that's no longer dictated by the game's coding.

While derivative to one degree or another of "Matrix" and "Truman," the nearly two-hour-long movie is nonetheless creative and imaginative in both how things play out and all the small details stuffed into the offering (including various cameos, some easy to spot, others less so). "Free Guy" rates as a 6 out of 10.

Reviewed August 3, 2021 / Posted August 13, 2021

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