The Fall Guy (2024)
The Fall Guy (2024)

Genre: Action Comedy Running Time: 2 hrs. 6 min.

Release Date: May 3rd, 2024 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: David Leitch Actors: Ryan Gosling, Emily Blunt, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Teresa Palmer, Hannah Waddingham, Stephanie Hsu, Winston Duke, Ben Knight

 


 

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rofessional stuntman Colt Seavers (Ryan Gosling) never gets the recognition he deserves for the impressively elaborate and exceedingly dangerous action marvels he executes on screen for the films of popular adventure star Tom Ryder (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). But he’s still living the dream just by getting to work with his true love, Jody Moreno (Emily Blunt), the ambitious camera operator who aspires to one day helm her own blockbuster. When a stunt-gone-wrong lands Colt on his back – with a broken back – he struggles to find hope in his future, hastily retreating from both the industry and Jody.

After 18 months, Seavers has recovered from his injuries, but he’s still failed to reclaim his self worth. When movie producer Gail Meyer (Hannah Waddingham) contacts the stuntman with an opportunity to get back into pictures – namely, the chance to work on Moreno’s directorial debut – he jumps at the offer. But once he arrives at the extravagant Australian set, he quickly discovers that he’s not actually there at his former girlfriend’s behest, but rather to clean up Gail’s mess. Her leading man Ryder is missing and might be mixed up with flamboyant drug dealers, manic mistresses, and ruthless killers. Now, Colt must battle with Ryder’s off-screen demons as well as his own personal ones if he hopes to save the day, finish the movie, and reconnect with the love of his life.

“The Fall Guy” uses film noir narration to establish something of a murder/mystery setup, charting the rise and fall of a hapless protagonist, much like a star detective reduced to a private dick scouring seedy locations for missing undesirables. It immediately possesses the flavor of “The Nice Guys,” which itself mimicked “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,” “Burn After Reading,” and other modern whodunits, while borrowing liberally from the archetypes of Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe. And it also mixes in a self-aware vibe, replete with references to not only a wealth of other movies that it pays homage to or pokes fun at (including product placement and dialogue quoting lines from titles like “The Fast and the Furious” and “The Last of the Mohicans,” which serves merely to remind viewers of potential derivations), but also the movie-within-a-movie trope like in “Tropic Thunder,” which uses its fictional concepts to mirror those of the main characters. And all of this is under the guise of a fresh adaptation of a 1980s television series (which this bears almost no resemblance to). “We’re getting tangled in exposition!”

Yet the most significant element here is the love story, which starts strong, carried by the onscreen chemistry of Gosling and Blunt. It’s humorous, maudlin, and convincing, particularly when sequences of shooting the fake movie “Metalstorm” take the place of having the leads talk through their feelings in a traditionally intimate setting. With matchmaking, second chances, and plenty of gushy flirtations, the routine romantic stuff becomes undeniably enjoyable. Curiously, the struggles of filmmaking, shown through an obvious love and appreciation for stuntwork (director David Leitch was a stuntman previously), could have been enough of a driving force; yet the flatfoot components eventually resurface, wandering down a winding path of convoluted plot turns. “Promise me you’re not going to derail this.”

Despite the femme fatales, the drugs, the dead bodies, and the excitement of chases and showdowns, the bulk of the picture is about highlighting stunts and the people involved in making them look good. So it’s particularly disappointing when the choreography of those stunts, as well as the planning and orchestration, isn’t always persuasive. During many shots, it’s difficult to tell when the actual daredevilry stops and the computer augmentation – or editing wizardry – steps in for relief. Unlike the works of Jackie Chan or other screen warriors (including, recently, Tom Cruise, Keanu Reeves, and, surprisingly, Bob Odenkirk) who refuse to cut away, so that audiences know that they’re genuinely doing their own outrageous physical feats, “The Fall Guy” isn’t concerned with proving anything about Gosling’s own involvements (which isn’t the point). But this works against it, tending to favor rapid cuts and transitions and exaggerated staging, muddying the lines between real and unreal. And when certain stunts are designed too outlandishly, it doesn’t even matter if a portion of it is authentic; audiences need to feel that they are in order to invest in them.

Even the sharper moments of explosive exploits pose a peculiar notion that realism isn’t necessary when technology can take its place – such as when animal footage is inserted into shots, reminding that they don’t need an actual stunt horse, for example (there’s also the significance of deepfakes, noted within the film, which take the idea of legitimacy to an entirely new level, embroiling the potential successes of extreme stunts). It’s no wonder, then, that the best parts of “The Fall Guy” involve the contrasts of Colt and Jody’s conducts, jumping back and forth between fighting and frivolities, or ruing and brainstorming, which are all but forgotten when the sluggish third act finally comes around, perhaps intentionally meandering in a self-referential thought about not knowing how to conclude a good romance. It’s never a great idea, however, to specifically scrutinize shortcomings in scripts in the course of the picture, only to then stumble about with those exact same problems, even if the hope is that by pointing them out, they’ll be more palatable when confronted. Here, the finale is simply too complicated and farfetched, threatening to ruin the intermittent amusement of what is clearly a love letter to the unsung art of movie stunts. “It’s just a stupid movie!”

– The Massie Twins

  • 6/10