Movie Review

Free Guy: Yeah… That’s How Video Games Work

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Free Guy is a movie that is, ostensibly, about an NPC (that’s Non-Player Character for the uninitiated) inside a video game who slowly comes to the realization about who and what he is. 

I’m going to try and keep this review on the rails. However, I might have to make a couple of disparaging asides. This is because if you’re watching Free Guy as an avid gamer, it seems entirely possible that no one on the movie’s production team understands how video games work. Hell, I would hazard a guess that they’re not even sure what video games are, given the egregious misrepresentations perpetrated throughout its runtime.

They’re just like The Matrix, right?

I will, however, try and balance my asides with some actual nice things to say about the movie.

Also: SPOILERS! For, like, the whole article. Because I tend to rant, and I can’t do that without over-explaining. 

Free City

The movie takes place, predominantly, in Free City, an MMO (Massive Multiplayer Online game) that is something akin to Grand Theft Auto. In the game, players cause havoc by completing missions which, in this case, amounts to committing crimes. Players rob banks and bodegas. They steal cars in the middle of the street. And they pilot jets between the city’s skyscrapers.

Or “the Danger Zone,” as it’s sometimes called

Guy (played by Ryan Reynolds) is an NPC and bank teller whose bank gets robbed several times a day by various players. This doesn’t bother him, or any of the other NPCs, because the gameplay loop of Free City is their lives. So, to them, the chaos caused by the players is just a matter of course. 

One day, when Guy is leaving work, he passes a Player who is singing a song that resonates deeply with him. Without hesitation, he turns to follow the player so that he can talk to her, thus breaking him from his predetermined path. 

Through the Looking Glass

Now, the biggest difference between the players and the NPCs of Free City is that players wear sunglasses and NPCs don’t. So, the NPCs imaginatively refer to the Players as “the sunglasses people.”

After failing to catch up to the singing player (Molotov Girl, played by Jodie Comer), Guy takes it upon himself to steal a pair of sunglasses so that he can talk to her.

Now, this is absolutely ludicrous for a few reasons. 

Not only is it ridiculous because he could steal the sunglasses… the fact that there are sunglasses at all is absolutely insane. This means that no matter how you design your character, it’s always going to have sunglasses of some kind. It also means that the developers of this game made it a requirement to have them on so that Player Characters can see the game as it truly is.

Looks right to me

Did I not mention that before? Yeah, the NPCs just see a normal world, and the only aberration seems to be the jerks who get to wear Ray-Bans. 

However, with the sunglasses on, Guy can see all of the UI elements and in-game markers that players can see. So, now that Guy is effectively a “sunglasses person,” he goes about using his newfound sight to find Molotov Girl.

Reasons

When Guy does finally catch up to her, she rebuffs him, saying that she doesn’t need the help of someone who is only level one (Read: Noob), and to come back when he breaks level one-hundred.

What follows is a montage of Guy “playing” the game so that he can level up. However, instead of running around killing people and robbing banks he opts to—Audible Gasp—help people. For some reason, his antics take off around the world because he’s the only “Player” in Free City who’s not a dick.

This means that no one—NO ONE!!—had ever tried to play the game as a good guy.

So, at least that’s accurate

Eventually, Guy gets to level 100 (pretty easily) and becomes a worldwide sensation in the process, all because his crush set an arbitrary level requirement for him. 

Anyway, it turns out that Molotov Girl is actually a game developer herself, and is trying to prove that Free City was built atop a game that she helped develop. And what she needed help with was stealing a video file from another player’s home base… 

Because that’s where we keep our video files. Not on our desktops, but inside a video game location as an item that any other player can take.

So, now that Guy has the prerequisite experience, he joins Molotov Girl on her quest.

Electric Sheep

The worst part about this movie is its missed potential. Yes, it’s a family-friendly action movie starring Ryan Reynolds, so it never really had to try very hard.

A cinematic masterpiece

However, there was a much more contemplative movie lying underneath Free Guy’s surface.

You see, Guy is (within the world of the movie) the first true artificial intelligence. He is a thinking, feeling entity that is fully self-aware. He even passes an impromptu Turing Test when Molotov Girl is unable to tell that she is talking to an A.I. and mistakenly thinks that he is another player.

This plot point leads to moments of true introspection as to the nature of humanity and what it means to be self-aware. Unfortunately, these moments pass quickly and are undercut with (admittedly funny) jokes and more video game references than you can shake a stick at.

Dev Notes

Overall, Free Guy is an alright movie. It has plenty of heart, which was overshadowed by a lot of video game references and childish humor. 

Though, I guess that was probably the point. 

It was supposed to be a fun action-adventure about seeing a video game from the point of view of an NPC, and that’s exactly what you get with this movie.

Could it have been introspective and thought-provoking while still maintaining its sense of humor and devotion to video game tropes? Probably. However, the end result was a movie that was mostly entertaining, not entirely coherent, and had fun with its premise.

I’m giving Free Guy an underwhelming 6/10. It wasn’t a tour-de-force, nor was it utter garbage. It walked a fine line between being funny and being good, and unfortunately, it suffered for it.

There was one thing that this movie did for me personally. I think watching this as someone who has played games his entire life has made me realize what it must be like for cops to watch procedural crime shows, or doctors to watch medical dramas. 

Sure, it’s still entertaining, but boy howdy, when the movie gets something wrong does it yank me right out and destroy my suspension of disbelief. 

So, I guess my point is: I should never become a cop or a doctor, because I like media too much. 

I think that was the right lesson to have learned from this… 

Probably.

Girl with curly red hair standing in front of a floral background while holding a glass of wine
Movie Review

I’m Thinking of Ending Things: I’m Thinking of How to Review This

This movie was… it was… 

I’m not sure… how do I even?

I started I’m Thinking of Ending Things because it looked like it might be a good horror movie.

It was not. 

I’m Thinking of Ending Things is a movie that is utterly hard to describe, let alone understand. I’m not even sure what genre it’s supposed to be. The worst part is that the longer you watch the movie the more you think you understand, until…

Gif of man with clipboard shaking his head with tagline "No, no you don't"
You just don’t

Now, I pride myself on being able to guess the ending of a movie with a certain degree of accuracy. Some I can even guess within the first ten minutes or so. That being said, one of my favorite things a movie can do is subvert my expectations. Well, I’m Thinking of Ending Things certainly did that… but I’m not happy about it. I’m still a little confused even now, and I’ve read several articles explaining what the movie is actually about. 

So how do I review something so thoroughly confounding?

Seriously… I’m asking because I don’t have a clue.

Alright then. Plan B it is.

I’m going to do my best to describe the move… and put a succinct little review at the end. So…

*Spoilers Ahead*

Awkward Car Ride

The movie starts with a car ride through a building snowstorm. An awkward car ride that is made even more awkward by how long the scene is. It introduces us to a man and a woman who are on a road trip to visit the man’s parents. 

Every part of every conversation in this particular scene is uncomfortable. From the way the two interact, to the voice over of the woman talking about how she has an intrusive thought that keeps repeating — “I’m  thinking of ending things”. The only two possible meanings to this are that she is either going to dump this guy soon, or kill herself… orrrr both?

Emperor's New Groove Characters Saying "Both? Both? Both. Both is Good." in gif format

Anyway, this scene goes on for over twenty minutes. By the end of it, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue watching. My main thought was that the long awkward car ride was going to inform the rest of the movie. You know… make the whole car ride worth it. 

That did not happen.

Meeting the Parents

Then we get to the parents’ house.

This is where the movie goes off the rails. The parents seem nice enough, but again, everything is so awkward and unsettling that it makes you feel like you’re watching a horror movie… which, again, you are not. One scene even introduces a creepy basement door that’s covered in scratches and has been taped up.

After some long-overdue introductions, everyone moves to the dining room where dinner has already been prepared… And this is where it starts to get a little weird, because the dining table had been empty only moments before. 

Dinner itself ups the ante with everyone behaving erratically from start to finish. The mother and father seem to be lost in their own little world, where all they want to talk about is how great their son is. They laugh uproariously at things that aren’t funny, and always seem to be looking to their son for cues as to what they should do. It starts to feel like maybe they aren’t his parents.

This is also where people start to change details about themselves. By this point in the story the woman is a physicist, a painter, and a poet. Which are certainly things someone can be, but they are each given as the characteristics that define her. Even the story of how the woman and her boyfriend met changes each time it is told.

As dinner winds down, the woman starts picking up everyone’s plates because she wants to get the hell out of there. She repeatedly says that she wants to go, but is continuously ignored. Eventually, she goes to check on how bad the weather is, only to turn around to find that everyone has teleported to the sitting room for dessert.

From here, things get almost too incoherent to even describe accurately. The parents and the man continue to teleport about the house, and every time you see the parents, their ages change drastically.

It’s like watching the Scooby Doo hallway scenes, but it’s terrifying

The family dog appears and disappears from scenes, and when it is on screen it is continuously shaking water off itself like a gif that won’t go away. 

What makes everything infinitely unsettling is how okay the woman is with all the madness going on around her.. She just kind of goes with the flow. Even when she enters a room to find her boyfriend’s mother lying on her deathbed, and her boyfriend’s father walks in looking about fifty years old, she just acts as if it’s only mildly off-putting.

The whole movie is bonkers this way. There are so many details that I’ve left out, and I can’t even begin to get to them all. We’d be here all night. What I can say is that details change from scene to scene, and what was true in one scene will be contradicted in the very next scene.

Eventually, the woman and her boyfriend leave the house and start the trek home. Which brings us to…

Another Awkward Car Ride

So, now the two are back in the car for another twenty minutes of awkward conversation. In this second scene, the personality of the woman changes a few different times, and the woman even changes actors once. I had to rewind the movie three times to really make sure I was seeing what I thought I was seeing.

They stop for ice cream in the middle of the still-raging blizzard, and even the people running the ice cream shoppe are acting super weird. 

When they finally get back on the road, neither wants the ice cream that they specifically stopped for, so the boyfriend decides he’s going to stop at his old high school to dump the treats into an old dumpster he knows is there. 

The woman starts to object vehemently, but he stops at the school anyway.

This is where things become completely deranged. 

The man goes to throw the drinks away and leaves the woman in the car. He does, eventually return, and he tries to get romantic with the woman, which doesn’t go well at first. But then, for no reason, she decides to try and kiss him back. 

Me, for the entirety of this movie, especially from here out

There is a flash of a janitor watching them through a window, and the man can feel it for some reason and decides to go into the school and teach the janitor a lesson. 

The woman, not wanting to die waiting out in the cold alone, eventually heads into the school as well.

I’m Just Going to Give Away the Ending, So Don’t Read This if You’re Still Interested in Watching the Movie

The school is where everything falls apart. 

The woman passes a dumpster that is chockablock full of ice cream as she enters. She calls for the man several times before she sees the janitor and tries to hide, only to be caught. 

She asks the janitor if he’s seen her boyfriend, but he hasn’t… and she suddenly starts acting like she and her boyfriend have never gotten along, and she, in fact, only went out with him because she has a hard time saying no, and that she never wanted to go out with him. 

When she’s done talking with the janitor, she turns around to go and find her boyfriend one more time. 

When she finally runs into him, another version of herself and her boyfriend appear and start an interpretive dance that takes them to the gym, where another version of the janitor appears and fights the boyfriend in an interpretive dance fight.

Then the janitor is the only person remaining.

He goes out into his truck to find that it won’t start. He starts taking off his clothes as he begins to hallucinate. He is then led by a talking pig hallucination to a stage, where he turns into an old version of the boyfriend and begins singing a song from the musical Oklahoma.

As the song ends, the movie cuts to the font of the school where the janitor’s truck is covered in snow.

The End.

Seriously… The. Fucking. End.

Now, again, I did leave out details because time reasons, but even if I told you that the boyfriend mentioned loving Oklahoma, or that he told a story about pigs, or even if I mention that the movie did keep flashing to the janitor cleaning the school every once in a while, I still don’t think it make much sense. 

It doesn’t make much sense… unless you actually know what’s going on.

What’s Going On *HUGE SPOILERS*

It turns out that the whole movie is the musings of the janitor. He led a completely uneventful and lonely life, and in his final hours was wondering what would have happened if he had asked out a woman he met one time.

He tries desperately to figure out who she was by giving her different identities and trying to create an ideal version of himself that any version of the woman can love. Unfortunately, he has a hard time keeping his thoughts straight. Which is why he can’t decide when they would have met his parents.

Were his parents still young when they were introduced? Were they older? Were they on their deathbeds? 

In the end, the Janitor dies alone in his truck, filled with only regret at the decisions he didn’t make.

It’s really a heartbreaking movie, and it’s unfortunate that you have to slog through so much weirdness to get to this almost profound ending.

If You Skipped The Other Stuff, This Is The End Of The Review

I’m Thinking of Ending Things is as bizarre as it is unsettling upon a first viewing. Subsequent viewings, with the actual plot in mind, might be required to fully appreciate this unique and, at times, intriguing movie. Unfortunately, I’m not willing to put in the time to try it again. The move is roughly two and a half hours long, and honestly I’m not willing to put myself through it again just because I might like it a little better the second time round. 

So, with all that in mind, I’m going to give I’m Thinking of Ending Things a monkey on a unicycle reading a list of all of your greatest fears / that time you tried something new at your favorite restaurant and were thoroughly disappointed. Because that ranking system makes about as much sense as the movie itself.