THE FALL GUY [2024]

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Directed by:
Written by:
Starring: , , ,

USA

IN CINEMAS NOW

RUNNING TIME: 124 mins

REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera

Colt Seavers, a Hollywood stunt performer, works as the stunt double for famous action star Tom Ryder. However, he gets severely injured during a stunt gone wrong and abandons his career and his girlfriend Jody Moreno, a camerawoman. 18 months later, Colt, now a valet for a small Mexican restaurant, is contacted by Gail Meyer, Tom’s producer. She tells him that Jody is directing her first film, a science fiction epic called Metalstorm, and wants Colt to join the production in Sydney, Australia, but actually Jody never asked for him and is still angry about their breakup. Gail reveals that Tom has disappeared after getting involved with drugs, and asks Colt to find him before his absence causes the film’s cancellation. Colt agrees, but soon realises that some people don’t want him to find his quarry….

I credit my stepdad for largely starting off my love of movies at a young age, though I distinctly recall being very disappointed when he told me that, actually, when something dangerous or even strenuous is being done by the lead characters, it’s usually not the stars who you’re seeing, it’s other people who are paid to do this stuff for them. It must be a strange job, being a stuntperson. You’re pretending to be other people, making them look good, and your face shouldn’t be seen, though anyone who’s watched, say, A View To A Kill will agree that there are times where the fakery doesn’t work; it’s painfully obvious that it’s not Roger Moore hanging onto that airship, even the stuntman’s build is different!  But they’ve always been an essential part of the magic of the movies, though of course things are safer nowadays, with less risk of losing one’s life. Unfortunately, CGI has lessened the need for stuntpeople, something that many of us oldies feel is a shame; young ‘uns might thrill at all at that bonkers car stuff in the Fast And Furious films, but many of us oldies don’t, because very little of what we see is real. The Fall Guy is a tribute to this still largely underappreciated aspect of filmmaking, while incorporating elements of action cinema, detective dramas and romantic comedy. It might sound like an awkward mix, but director David Leitch, who before he became a director was a stunt performer himself including doubling Brad Pitt five times, and screenwriter Drew Pierce mostly pull it off, resulting in one of the most sheerly enjoyable “big” movies to come out of Hollywood in a while.

It opens with our hero Colt Seavers narrating as we see him perform a variety of stunts, mostly while pretending to be Tom Ryder. This will certainly bring back memories of the opening of the ’80s TV series of the same name, where we saw a collection of stunts from various shows and films. In it, Lee Majors played a Hollywood stunt man who moonlighted as a bounty hunter, using his physical skills and knowledge of stunt effects, especially  involving cars or his large pickup truck, to capture fugitives and battle criminals. My memory of it is pretty shady though I do recall really liking it, though I’m not sure that it’s remembered that fondly in general seeing as they only released seasons one and two on DVD [though there’s a chance that may change if this film becomes very popular] because of poor sales. I don’t recall the character having a girlfriend, but he has one here, in the form of camerawoman Jody Moreno. Things are going good for Colt; not only in the midst of this passionate affair with a pretty lady, but he loves his job, even if Tom is very arrogant and egotistical, his prime concern being looking good onscreen while providing the minimum of effort, relying a great deal on Colt but not seeming to respect him. Colt is also very good at his job, but all through cinema history stuntpeople have had accidents, some of them fatal, and Colt badly injures his back when a fall goes wrong. We rejoin him a year and a half later. Pride caused him to dump Jody, and fear may have been one of things which caused him to abandon his career. But then producer Gail Meyer rings him up, and back to his old job he goes.

Soon he’s 0n the set of Metalstorm in Sydney. Hardcore science fiction movie fans will recall a film called Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn, from 1983, one of that period’s 3D efforts. I haven’t seen it, but it seems that this fictional production is sort of a loose remake. Jody isn’t too happy to see Colt again, even though as a director she has the right to tell him what to do on set. We’ve all seen a few rom-coms, even if we may not particularly like the genre, where lovers get stuff of their chests in public and presumably live happily ever after. Here we get a version of the scene, but instead of it taking place at the end of the movie, it occurs about fifteen minutes in and the couple get it all out there and do it with megaphones, but certainly don’t resolve anything even if, after hearing her tell him, albeit largely in metaphors and probably just to wind him up, that she’s had other lovers since and they’ve been better. he says that he regrets leaving her. The scene oddly works, and I was asking myself why, since similar ones tend to leave me cold. Granted, our two stars are at their very best in this movie, but that couldn’t be the only reason, could it? Anyway, Colt soon agrees to look for Tom, and enters a club where he meets with Tom’s drug dealer and is given some [unspecified] drug. However, he’s still able to fight off some bad guys and escape while very high, in the only scene which majorly relies on CGI visuals but works extremely well. Gosling makes us believe that he can do this – in fact he could become a genuine action star on the basis of this film!

Colt has clearly learnt a lot in his job, such as an extremely keen eye, fighting skill, an ability to hang on to moving vehicles, and a high tolerance for injury and pain, things which come in handy. Archetypal elements of private eye thrillers are brought in, beginning with a dead body found in a bath, though the mystery isn’t very interesting after a while, and we have yet another stupid villain who has something very bad that he did saved on his phone just so that the plot can move forward. One of the baddies is so obvious from early on then one wonders if the eventual revelation was ever intended as a surprise at all. A line of dialogue claims that the public don’t like too much complexity, but just a little bit more would have helped here.  And here’s a real cockup; Seavers is supposed to have worked on the Miami Vice TV show, which ended in 1989 when Gosling was nine years old – unless this was intended as a comment on how pop culture can seem to compress time? Nonetheless The Fall Guy seems to try hard to please, alternating its thrills with humour and romance, and even achieves some emotion in the viewer when the script for Metalstorm threatens to have its love story rewritten so it doesn’t end sadly, paralleling Colt and Jody. It’s simple, obvious stuff, variations of which we’ve seen elsewhere, but we care. Maybe it really is the star power of Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt that makes it work? Both stars seem to have an interest in and an ability to do anything while still projecting a certain image. They share considerable chemistry too, and have a knack for making humorous lines that aren’t particularly so, even though they don’t actually share many scenes. I’d like to see them together again. It’s also nice that, in this age of presenting so many women as being totally amazing, Blunt’s character is a bit out of her depth, something Blunt herself actually brought to the script.

The action emphasises practical work, with just a bit of CG enhancement here and there, something that’s proved right the end when behind the scenes footage of the stunt work is shown, revealing that most of the greenscreen looked so good that it didn’t even come across as greenscreen. You can’t tell when actors are being doubled either, except for one or two jumps that have edits in them. Likewise an awesome-looking car leap over a huge gap, which has two reaction shots put in. On the other hand, a car roll has already broken records, and a fight on a rubbish truck through Sydney is a particularly exciting highlight in a series of thrill sequences on the road, on the water and in the air. Leitch and his cameraman Jonathan Sela mostly go for fairly long takes so we can clearly see and appreciate all this, but are still able to be creative, such as some great circular shots. Of course us older viewers are made to feel nostalgic for the days when people were out there risking life and limp for our entertainment. We wince when Gale says that a major action scene in the film be done with CGI, something that probably happens often these days, and cheer when this doesn’t happen. I hope that, by this time, young people in the audience, having already learnt about an important aspect of filmmaking that’s less important these days than it used to be but is indeed still important, will feel like doing the same – and indeed at the fairly packed showing I attended most people young and old seemed to have enjoyed the movie as they exited the screen. Well, except for one girl, around ten years old, who complained that lots of bits that were in the trailer weren’t in the film. Seeing as I tend to avoid trailers, I wouldn’t have known otherwise.

The Fall Guy might contain things like an ongoing gag where somebody tests Colt by working in lines from movies, and when we eventually see a trailer for Metalstorm it parodies a certain recent big sci-fi blockbuster, especially in terms of its look, yet there’s still some restraint in here; this movie could have been crammed with movie references and pretensions to being meta, but it holds back. Nor does it attempt to replicate the only genuinely great [though there haven’t been that many] movie about a stuntman, The Stuntman, except perhaps a little bit towards the end. The needle drops are too on the nose and parts of one song are repeated far too much, and as I mentioned earlier more attention could have been paid to the plot, but nonetheless The Fall Guy otherwise does keep one smiling. Sequel please.

Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

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About Dr Lenera 1980 Articles
I'm a huge film fan and will watch pretty much any type of film, from Martial Arts to Westerns, from Romances [though I don't really like Romcoms!]] to Historical Epics. Though I most certainly 'have a life', I tend to go to the cinema twice a week! However,ever since I was a kid, sneaking downstairs when my parents had gone to bed to watch old Universal and Hammer horror movies, I've always been especially fascinated by horror, and though I enjoy all types of horror films, those Golden Oldies with people like Boris Karloff and Christopher Lee probably remain my favourites. That's not to say I don't enjoy a bit of blood and gore every now and again though, and am also a huge fan of Italian horror, I just love the style.

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