In the open world video game Free City, Guy (Reynolds) is a non-player character (NPC) working as a bank teller. Thanks to a program developed by programmers Millie (Comer) and Keys (Keery) inserted into Free City by the publisher Antoine (Waititi), Guy becomes aware of his world being a video game, and takes steps to make himself the hero, creating a race against time to save the game before the developers can shut it down.
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 her and Keys' code and prove 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 his world is a video game. One day, he encounters Molotov Girl, who is singing the song 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 over 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 100, 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 within the game that holds evidence of her source code. Guy helps Millie escape the Stash, and Millie recognizes that Guy is becoming sentient and believes he can help her find their 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 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 as "blue shirt Guy", gladly 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-game, Millie finds Guy without any memories of his sentience, but recalling Keys' 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 is the only proof of Millie's and Keys' 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 ax, but Guy makes it to the Island in time, an event seen by gamers all over the world. Millie coerces Antwan to return the Free City code and intellectual property (IP) back to her and Keys.
Without the support of Millie's and Keys' code, sales for Free City 2 tank, and Antwan becomes wrapped up in several media controversies, resulting in him being ousted from Soonami. Keys, Mouser, and Millie start a new company with the recovered code to release Free Life, bringing Guy, Buddy, Dude, and the other Free City NPCs into it. Free Life is a success, while, thanks to Guy, Millie realizes that Keys' code was in fact a love letter to her, and they embrace and kiss.
Meanwhile, in Free Life, Guy reunites with Buddy and they both begin to live their own lives without having to follow their original coding from Free City.
- Ryan Reynolds as Guy
- Reynolds also portrays Dude, with his face superimposed onto Aaron W. Reed's body via special effects.
- Jodie Comer as Millie Rusk / Molotov Girl
- Joe Keery as Walter "Keys" McKeys
- Lil Rel Howery as Buddy
- Utkarsh Ambudkar as Mouser
- Taika Waititi as Antwan
- Camille Kostek as Bombshell
- Britne Oldford as Missy
- Matty Cardoraple as Gamer
- Mike Davine as Officer Johnny
YouTube personalities Jacksepticeye, Ninja, Pokimane, DanTDM, and LazarBeam have cameos. Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek also posthumously appears in the film as himself. Channing Tatum appears as a gamer's avatar, Chris Evans appears as himself, and actors Tina Fey, Hugh Jackman, Dwayne Johnson, and John Krasinski all have voice cameos in the film.
Free Guy had been in 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 20th Century Studios. Ryan Reynolds, who produced the film along with Shawn Levy, said "I haven’t been this fully immersed and engaged in something since Deadpool".
The film started principal photography in Boston in May 2019, including around the city's Financial District. Filming also took place in downtown Worcester, Massachusetts, and Framingham, Massachusetts, in the former Framingham Bank building, and at the former Naval Air Station in South Weymouth, Massachusetts.
- Main article: Free Guy (soundtrack)
The film's score was composed by Christophe Beck. Levy had originally intended to use the song "Your Love" by The Outfield, but Reynolds suggested using "Fantasy" by Mariah Carey instead. Reynolds talked to Carey about getting permission to use it and she allowed them to use the song throughout the film. A cover version of "Fantasy" sung by Jodie Comer was also used in the film. The Avengers theme and Star Wars theme, respectively by Alan Silvestri and John Williams, appear in the film.
Free Guy was initially scheduled to be theatrically released in the United States on July 3, 2020, but was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was then moved to December 11, 2020. In November 2020, the studio removed the film from its upcoming release schedule. On December 11, 2020, it was announced that the film would be released on March 26, 2021. It was then moved to May 21 the same year, then it was moved again to August 13.
On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 80% based on 260 reviews, with an average rating of 7.00/10. The website's critical consensus reads: "Combining a clever concept, sweet, self-aware humor, and a charming cast, Free Guy is frivolous fun." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 62 out of 100 based on 50 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
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