The Fall Guy (2024, dir. David Leitch)

by | May 4, 2024

Certificate: 12A

Running Time: 126 mins

UK Distributor: Universal Pictures

UK Release Date: 2 May 2024

WHO’S IN THE FALL GUY?

Ryan Gosling, Emily Blunt, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Winston Duke, Hannah Waddingham, Stephanie Hsu, Teresa Palmer

WHO’S BEHIND THE CAMERA?

David Leitch (director, producer), Drew Pearce (writer), Guymon Casady, Ryan Gosling and Kelly McCormick (producers), Dominic Lewis (composer), Jonathan Sela (cinematographer), Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir (editor)

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

A Hollywood stuntman (Gosling) winds up on an epic misadventure during his latest gig…

WHAT ARE MY THOUGHTS ON THE FALL GUY?

Allow me to be the 1,435,734th person to publicly acknowledge the criminally overlooked role of the stunt team within filmmaking. Whether it’s budgeted at blockbuster levels or the more obscure independent film, there is almost always a stunt coordinator and a hard-boiled team of performers ready to perform the craziest acts possible, from being thrown through windows to falling from impossible heights.

Their work deserves more credit than they are given (are you listening, Academy?), and you won’t find a more fitting celebration than in The Fall Guy, whose director David Leitch is himself a former stunt performer and coordinator.

Leitch’s film, an adaptation of the 80s television series starring Lee Majors, puts the thrilling and often dangerous physical dedication of a typical stunt performer firmly at the centre, and when it’s simply being a non-stop action showcase with practical achievements galore, the film is a great bit of fun. From a more critical standpoint, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I was in love with the film, only because of the narrative that is centred around an otherwise solid experience.

The film focuses on Colt Seavers (Ryan Gosling, in the Majors role), a Hollywood stuntman with a strong crush on camera operator Jody (Emily Blunt), who after experiencing a severe onset injury retreats into exile, pushing Jody away in the process. Some time later, Colt is contacted by producer Gail Meyer (Hannah Waddingham), who flies him over to Sydney, Australia for a gig on a new big-budget sci-fi blockbuster, much to the initial dismay of Jody, who so happens to be making her directorial debut on the project. Colt soon learns that there’s an extra reason for him being there: the film’s star, Tom Ryder (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), has gone missing, which could potentially tank Jody’s film and her career if he’s not found imminently. So, in order to help Jody and maybe win her back, Colt sets out to locate the A-lister, only to wind up uncovering a much larger conspiracy in the process.

Knowledge of the eponymous TV show is not required for this big-screen take on The Fall Guy, which doubles down hard on the stunt-fuelled action, with car flips, explosions, gunfire and fist fights on moving vehicles galore. It’s a testament to Leitch’s energy as a director that the consistent action doesn’t become tiresome because there’s always something to enjoy and appreciate on the screen, whether it’s a choreographed brawl or someone being set on fire multiple times. The stunt work on this film is passionate to the max, to where the film really does come off as a love letter to all aspects of that community and its many roles, from the person performing all these crazy stunts in front of the camera to the coordinator in charge of making sure everything goes off without a hitch. Leitch clearly has a huge amount of respect and admiration for the stunt world that he once belonged to, and it certainly shows in his often-enthralling depiction of said world.

When the film isn’t all about the action, the film has admirable traces of other genres that help keep the entertainment factor afloat. The central romance between Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt is sweet-natured and plentiful, not least because the actors’ chemistry with one another is a lot of fun, with both of them managing to be extremely charming and often very funny in ways that true bona fide movie stars like them can be, and you certainly are rooting for them to patch up their differences and give each other another shot.

Slightly less successful is the comedy, which does score some good laughs every so often, particularly with how surreal some of them can get, like a fun sequence involving split-screen and a recurring gag involving a unicorn (which is something I never thought I’d type about The Fall Guy). However, there are times when the success of a gag can rely solely on the actors’ over-the-top deliveries, while the joke itself isn’t nearly as smart or as sophisticated as it perhaps thinks it is.

The narrative, provided by screenwriter Drew Pearce, is one that falls apart as soon as you start applying logic to it. It is a film where the central mystery is not that hard to figure out, as well as who exactly is involved, while the villains’ motives and ultimate plan is one that you could poke a large number of holes through, particularly with how it would potentially be more of a hassle for them to execute their scheme rather than simply take a much simpler and far less petty route. It does make the overall viewing experience a little frustrating, because while there’s some great action and plenty of charisma firing on all cylinders from its cast and crew, you’ll wish that there was a better story to go along with it, because the one that has been applied is not nearly as firm and engaging as everything else.

Of course, you don’t go to a film like The Fall Guy to get sucked into its plot. You go because you want to see action aplenty, to see movie stars swap noble quips and loving looks with one another, and to generally escape into a heightened reality where cars explode on command and giant henchmen need at least a few bullets to take down. In all those regards, the film provides that in spades, and more likely than not you’ll have a great time experiencing all the on-screen madness that’s amplified by truly exceptional stunt work.

If the script had a more engaging plot, or at least one that made a little more sense, then perhaps I would have loved The Fall Guy more than I did. Don’t get me wrong, I still had plenty of fun with it, but critically speaking its flaws don’t provide that strong a safety net.

SO, TO SUM UP…

The Fall Guy is a fun piece of entertainment that fondly celebrates the exhilarating world of stunt performance, and has plenty of charm and charisma from its cast and filmmakers, though a frustratingly nonsensical plot drags this otherwise solid action showcase down.

Three out of five stars

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