Free Guy (2021) | 4K Blu-ray Review


Start with an NPC’s transition to self-aware hero in an open world video game, and add a well-constructed story line blending the challenges of the game world with the real-world. Next mix in a comedically talented cast and bunch of Easter egg gamer references while still keeping it relatable, and it definitely seems like the makings of an enjoyable summer film. Free Guy delivered on that front, so let’s see if the studio known for formulaic, mass-market physical media releases was able to shake it’s regular routine and bring us something that levels up it’s attributes on it’s latest 4K.


If after checking out the review, you decide to pick it up, you can find it here*: Amazon

Free Guy, 4K Blu-ray cover art

Tech Specs:

Format(s):UltraHD/4K Blu-ray (BD-66)
Blu-ray (BD-50)
Digital Code
Released By:Disney (20th Century Studios)
Release Date:October 12th, 2021
Video Format / Codec:4K: H.265 (HEVC)
BR: MPEG-4 (AVC)
Resolution:4K: 
Upscaled 4K, 2160/24p 
(3280 x 2160 at 23.976 frames/sec, progressive)

BR: 
Full HD, 1080/24p 
(1920 x 1080 at 23.976 frames/sec, progressive)
Digital Intermediate (DI):2K (from digital RAW)
High-Dynamic Range (HDR):HDR10
Aspect Ratio:2.39:1
Audio Format(s):English (4K): 
Dolby Atmos / TrueHD 7.1 (48kHz, 24-bit)
 
English (BR):
DTS-HD 7.1 (48kHz, 24-bit)

Additional tracks available in French (Canada), French, German, Italian, Japanese and Spanish
Subtitles:English SDH, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Spanish, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish
Packaging:Dual disc snap case w/ slipcover*

*Slipcover may only be available on initial pressing
Region Coding:4K: Region-free
BR: Region-free

Video Review:

Disney’s releases of blockbusters typically come in the form of an upscaled image, and Free Guy is no different. Though filmed digitally in various resolutions from 2.8K up to 6.5K, the movie’s heavy use of CGI special effects pushed it toward a 2K digital intermediate, which was then upscaled to 4K. While 4K purists may turn away at this point, Free Guy actually looks very good on the detail front, with noticeable uptick in detail especially on it’s live action elements over the 1080p counterpart. Skin details, characters costumes and real set pieces all have a higher level of detail, however the large use of CGI, rendered at 2K, definitely presented a more noticeable softness in those “in-game” scenes where the upscaling of effects definitely lost some sharpness. That said, it was not a jarring difference where the CGI looked out of place in the context of the live-action elements.

On the grain front, this movie was shot digitally and as such there is no real film grain to be found. There is a light layer of digital noise, but it is not noticeable from normal viewing distances.

On the dynamic range front, and typical from Disney, we only get static high-dynamic range in the form of HDR10. I do think this is a movie that would have been better served by a dynamic format, such as Dolby Vision (or even HDR10+ for those who have equipment that supports it) to provide a much richer experience. As a result we ended up with a picture that overall is a bit darker than its 1080p counterpart, likely to help balance the deepest nighttime and bright vibrant daytime “in-game” scenes. But as a result we did end up with some loss of shadow detail in some of the darker areas, while mostly preserving the brighter highlights. On the color front, the image definitely has a higher level of richness in colors and much better handle on color gradations in elements such as skies, with little to no banding present. Overall it was a good use of HDR, just not a great one.

The standard Blu-ray included in this set is also quite good. There is definitely a smoother transition between CGI and live action elements, and the overall picture is brighter. Color is not quite as punchy, but overall it is a very pleasing experience.

Video Score (4K): 4.2 / 5

Video Score (BR): 4.4 / 5

Audio Review:

In typical Disney fashion (have I said that before?), we get two flavors of audio on the two discs. But this is also where these two presentations start to separate themselves. Free Guy once again breaks the old pattern of relatively weak audio mixes following more closely to something like Black Widow than Age of Ultron.

While I did have to bump it up a couple decibels (instead of 8-10 of past releases), once it was at level, it came alive with deeper bass, a better leverage dynamic range, more nuance and a clean and clear front stage. The most noticeable improvement was an excellent use of the surround and height effects to really drop the listener into the experience of the game with effects flying all around the room, filling the experience with the musical score, and blending seamlessly with the action on screen. LFE and bass was strong, impactful, and will flex your subs. 
Moreover the mix was well utilized to contrast the experience in the game with that of the more cold, mundane experience in the office buildings of the real world, complementing the visual differences appropriately.

The 7.1 mix on the Blu-ray is also better than most in the past, but even when upmixed to use the heights, it still does not compete with the Atmos mix in terms of total immersion and dynamics. 

Audio Score (4K): 4.8 / 5

Audio Score (BR): 4.3 / 5

Special Features and Packaging:

OK, here it is once again. Typical of Disney, the list of special features in this package is basically a box checking exercise. Three brief, somewhat interesting, featurettes. Check. A short list of deleted/extended scenes. Check. Gag Reel. Check. Trailers. Check. Anything else. Nope.
As you can tell, I’m not surprised by this list and honestly was somewhat pleased to see that we got any featurettes longer than 10 minutes (a low bar), but it does feel like there was a lack of effort put in on this front to make anything on the list a bit deeper in quality and insight. That said, I have seen worse, and we at least got something, so I do appreciate that enough to keep this one right where it belongs from a score perspective.

Packaging is everything we expected from Disney. Their “Ultimate Collector’s Edition” label slapped on something that is neither ultimate nor collector-worthy. At least that gave us artwork on the 4K disc, but even that was nothing to gush over.

Features Score: 2.7 / 5

Buy/Upgrade-worthiness:

The big question on this one is whether to spend the extra bucks to grab the 4K version over the standard Blu-ray alone. For the audio mix alone, I would have this in my collection. The visuals between the two are tradeoffs. I preferred the brighter picture on the 1080p, but enjoyed the wider color gamut and bump in detail on the 4K disc. But the Atmos mix on the 4K for sure takes the win over the 7.1 mix on the standard Blu-ray.  And as of writing this there is only a $5 difference between the two with the 4K at the new release price of $30 and the 1080p at $25.. While Disney does a good job of keeping it’s vendor prices elevated for longer after the initial release, both of these should drop down in the not too distant future, so I could absolutely say to keep this on your wishlist and grab it once it gets to the teens.


Buy/Upgrade Recommendation: YES!

If after checking out the review, you decide to pick it up, you can find it here*: Amazon

Summary and Overall Scores:

I opened this review hinting that Disney has a formula and likes to stick to it. For Free Guy they mostly did that but did have some surprises on the audio front that make this a better experience than most in their 4K release list. The visuals were solid and enjoyable and the Atmos mix was immersive and dynamic. While features and packaging came right out of the same machine that produces every other release, it overall was an enjoyable entry into my collection.

Experience Score**: 4.2 / 5  (Very Good)

** Experience score does not take into account the quality of the film itself, just the technical presentation, packaging and included features.

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