Free Guy

Free Guy
Free Guy 2021 Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byShawn Levy
Screenplay by
Story byMatt Lieberman
Produced by
CinematographyGeorge Richmond
Edited byDean Zimmerman
Music byChristophe Beck
Distributed by20th Century Studios
Release date
  • August 10, 2021 (2021-08-10) (Locarno)
  • August 13, 2021 (2021-08-13) (United States)
Running time
115 minutes[2]
CountryUnited States
Budget$100–125 million[3]
Box office$111.9 million[4][1]

Free Guy is a 2021 American science fiction action comedy film directed by Shawn Levy from a screenplay by Matt Lieberman and Zak Penn, and a story by Lieberman. The film stars Ryan Reynolds (who also produced) as a bank teller who discovers that he is actually a non-player character in an open-world video game and becomes the hero of the story, saving his friends from deletion by the game's creator (Taika Waititi). Jodie Comer, Joe Keery, Lil Rel Howery and Utkarsh Ambudkar also star.

Following a year-long delay because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Free Guy was released theatrically in the United States on August 13, 2021 in RealD 3D, IMAX and Dolby Cinema formats by 20th Century Studios. The film received generally positive reviews from critics, who praised the clever concept and compared it favorably as a combination of Ready Player One, The Truman Show, The Matrix and Grand Theft Auto.[5][6]


Free City is an open-world video game developed by Soonami Games. Its code was stolen from a game called Life Itself, developed by Walter "Keys" McKey and Millie Rusk, and made into Free City by Soonami's head developer Antwan. Keys has since taken a job at Soonami, while Millie spends time within Free City as her avatar Molotov Girl to find evidence of code that she and Keys had written and to prove that they are the rightful owners of the code.

In the game, Guy, a non-player character (NPC), works as a bank teller and spends time with his best friend Buddy, unaware that his world is a video game. One day, he encounters Molotov Girl, who is singing the song that he says his dream girl will like and begins to deviate from his programming. He takes a pair of sunglasses from a player who tries to rob his bank, through which he sees Free City from the player's head-up display. Guy speaks to Millie, and she initially thinks he's another player named "Blue Shirt Guy" and not an NPC. She tells him to level up to above 100 before she will speak to him again. Rather than leveling up through the typical destructive acts, Guy opts to become a good guy, completing missions within Free City to reach level 102, during which he becomes a worldwide sensation as players watch the progression of "Blue Shirt Guy."

Millie and Guy meet again when she breaks into the Stash, another player's well-protected area that holds evidence of her source code. Guy helps Millie escape the Stash, and Millie recognizes that Guy is becoming sentient and believes that he can help her find her original code within the game world. Keys and Millie realize that Guy's self-awareness came about from artificial intelligence code containing Millie's personal preferences that Keys had included in Life Itself, which in turn had led Guy to develop a romantic interest with Millie. When Millie tells Guy the truth of his situation, Guy breaks off their relationship, telling her that he's in love with her. However, after talking with Buddy about the situation, Guy realizes that there was something more than love in that relationship and gains full sentience. Guy returns to Millie to agree to help before Free City is wiped from Soonami's servers to make way for its sequel, Free City 2, in two days.

Guy breaks into the Stash again with Buddy's help, but now its owner, recognizing Guy, hands over the evidence. Guy's continued popularity threatens the launch of Free City 2, and Antwan orders Keys and his new partner Mouser to reboot Guy's programming, but Keys refuses and is fired, and Antwan reboots Guy himself.

In the game, Millie finds Guy without any memories of his sentience, but recalling Keys's advice that Guy would need a reminder, she kisses him. Guy's sentience is restored, and he recalls the location of the Island, part of Life Itself that will not be protected from the pending data wipe and which is the only proof of Millie and Keys's original code. As Guy and Millie persuade the other NPCs in the game that they are more than their programming, Antwan tries to delete Guy and Molotov Girl from the game. Keys interferes to protect them and direct them to the Island, broadcasting the effort to all of the Free City players who had been ejected from the game. Antwan then sends Dude, a bigger and unfinished copy of Guy developed for Free City 2, into the game, but Guy is able to befriend him after a fight. Antwan takes a final step of destroying the game's servers with an axe, but Guy makes it to the Island before he can finish, an event seen by gamers all over the world. As Antwan sees value only in the Free City intellectual property (IP), he demands that Millie surrender it, along with the profits for the game, in exchange for the one server that he has yet to destroy. Millie agrees, sparing the game's inhabitants.

Without Millie and Keys's code, Free City 2 is a catastrophic failure at launch, Antwan becomes involved in several media controversies and he is arrested. Keys, Mouser and Millie start a successful new company with the recovered code to release Free Life, bringing Guy, Buddy, Dude and the other Free City NPCs into it. Thanks to Guy, Millie realizes that Keys's code was in fact a love letter to her, and they embrace and kiss.

Meanwhile, in Free Life, Guy reunites with Buddy and they begin to live their own lives without having to follow their original coding from Free City.


The film features cameo appearances from gamers and streamers Jacksepticeye, Ninja, Pokimane, DanTDM, and LazarBeam.[15] Actor Chris Evans, Good Morning America host Lara Spencer and, posthumously, Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek make cameo appearances as themselves.[16][17] Channing Tatum appears as Revenjamin Buttons, Keith's in-game avatar. Voice cameos in the film feature 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.[13][17]


In August 2016, Matt Lieberman spent three weeks writing the first draft of the spec script for Free Guy.[18] After it was completed, the screenplay was sold and put into development at 20th Century Fox prior to its acquisition by Disney, and 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.[19] Director Shawn Levy originally read the script in 2016 but passed on it. Several years later, Levy was introduced to Ryan Reynolds by Hugh Jackman, a mutual friend, and the pair decided to work on Free Guy after rereading the script together.[3] Reynolds, who also produced the film, said "I haven't been this fully immersed and engaged in something since Deadpool."[19]

The film started principal photography in Boston in May 2019, mostly around the city's Financial District.[20][21] Filming also took place in the Massachusetts cities of Worcester,[22] Framingham (in the former Framingham Savings Bank building)[23] and Weymouth (at the former Naval Air Station),[24] as well as at Revere Beach.[25]

While the game world was found to compare to those of Grand Theft Auto and Fortnite, production designer Ethan Tobman said that the design of the world drew more inspiration from games like SimCity and Red Dead Redemption 2.[26] Throughout the film, several weapons pulled from other video game and film franchises are used, 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 fists. After the film was acquired by Disney, which owns the Marvel and Star Wars franchises, the filmmakers asked for permission to use lightsabers or Captain America's shield and were granted permission to use all of the things that they wanted.[17][26]


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.[27]

On August 12, 2021, the Dude character became an outfit in the video game Fortnite.[28]


Free Guy was released in the United States on August 13, 2021[29] in RealD 3D, IMAX and Dolby Cinema formats. It was the first film during the pandemic released exclusively to theaters for 45 days before releasing on streaming services such as Disney+ Premier Access or Hulu/Disney+ Star.[30]

The film was initially scheduled to be released on July 3, 2020, but was delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.[31][32][33] It was then moved to December 11, 2020.[34][35] In November 2020, the studio removed the film, along with Death on the Nile, from its upcoming release schedule until further notice.[36][37] The next month, the film was rescheduled to May 21, 2021.[38] In March, Ryan Reynolds announced that the film was delayed to its August date.[39]

The film premiered at the Piazza Grande section of the 74th Locarno Film Festival in August 2021.[40]


Box office

As of August 22, 2021, Free Guy has grossed $58.8 million in the United States and Canada, and $53.1 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $111.9 million.[4][1]

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.[41] 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.[5] The film made $18.9 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.[42]

Critical response

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 82% based on 224 reviews, with an average rating of 7.10/10. The website's critics consensus reads, "Combining a clever concept, sweet, self-aware humor, and a charming cast, Free Guy is frivolous fun."[43] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 62 out of 100 based on 50 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews."[44] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale.[5]

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."[45] 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."[46] 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."[47]


On August 14, 2021, following the film's successful first-day box-office gross, Reynolds confirmed that Disney wanted a sequel.[48]


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