Friday, April 19, 2024

“THE FALL GUY”

THE STORY – After leaving the business one year earlier, battle-scarred stuntman Colt Seavers springs back into action when the star of a big studio movie suddenly disappears. As the mystery surrounding the missing actor deepens, Colt soon finds himself ensnared in a sinister plot that pushes him to the edge of a fall more dangerous than any stunt.

THE CAST – Ryan Gosling, Emily Blunt, Winston Duke, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Hannah Waddingham & Stephanie Hsu

THE TEAM – David Leitch (Director) & Drew Pearce (Writer)

THE RUNNING TIME – 125 Minutes


For years now, people have been saying that there are no more movie stars and that people no longer go to theaters for the actor on the poster but for the character on the poster. “The Fall Guy” emphatically puts the lie to that line of thinking, with Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt delivering performances of such unbridled charisma and white-hot chemistry that there’s only one way to describe them: Movie stars. It makes sense, as “The Fall Guy” is stuntman-turned-director David Leitch’s meta-cinematic love letter to movies and the people who make them. Movies about making movies need to have movie stars to work, and Gosling and Blunt are happy to oblige, making “The Fall Guy” a cracking example of what Hollywood does best.

Hollywood formulas are formulas for a reason: They’re time-tested ways to get audiences invested in characters and plots and ensure widespread enjoyment of their product. For all its sardonic humor and meta-cinematic references, “The Fall Guy” is a shiny piece of Hollywood product, the kind that has made people all around the world fall in love with Hollywood movies. Stuntman Colt Seavers (Gosling) has been superstar Tom Ryder’s (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) stunt double for six years. An on-the-job accident leads to Colt breaking his back and hiding away from the world, including from his mutual crush, camera operator Jody Moreno (Blunt). A year and a half later, Jody is directing her first feature, and producer Gail (Hannah Waddingham) calls in Colt to fill in for Tom’s current stuntman. But she lies to Colt, saying that Jody specifically requested him to get him to agree to come and fix the real problem: Tom is missing. Now, Colt has to save Jody’s film in more ways than one, hoping to win her back, even though she doesn’t seem too keen on the idea.

Drew Pearce’s screenplay has a lot of fun dissecting movies and the business of making them, including a subplot about Jody’s film having third-act troubles. The studio wants a happy, romantic ending, but she no longer believes in love after Colt ghosted her. To make her believe in love again, the film concocts some ingenious bits between Jody and Colt. First, it sees her force Colt to be set on fire and launched into a giant rock over and over again, and later, presented in a split screen format, the film sees them talk over the phone about the virtues of split screens for connecting two lovers on film. This can occasionally get a bit too clever for its own good, overexplaining how movies work in a way that takes some of the fun out of it. However, Gosling and Blunt are such a perfect pair that the bits work, coasting on their undeniable chemistry and individual charms.

Gosling and Blunt have similar personas onscreen, making their pairing feel natural, and their combined charisma makes it impossible to look away from the screen. They’re a delight to watch, with Blunt making such excellent comedic use of a prop alien hand as she’s talking to Colt on the phone that it would completely undercut the romance if not for the fact that this nonchalantly silly tone fits right in line with Blunt’s personality. The film’s tone perfectly aligns with the personas of its stars, so much so that we are watching Blunt and Gosling as much as we are watching Jody and Colt, which is practically the definition of what movie stars do.

As romantic as the plot between Colt and Jody is, “The Fall Guy” is first and foremost about the stuntwork. The action scenes are masterpieces of technical design, featuring stuntwork that’s all the more impressive for how real it looks. There is no feeling of weightless pixels being moved around the screen but of actual human bodies defying gravity and death. Each sequence is choreographed for maximum audience enjoyment, with pumped-up needle drops to further the excitement. As in his previous films, Leitch is not content with keeping things simple – a fistfight cannot be just a fistfight; it has to be a neon-soaked acid trip where every punch explodes into stars. Every action sequence steadily builds as it goes, adding elements until it reaches a satisfying, applause-worthy final blow. This is grand-scale practical filmmaking of the type we rarely see anymore, executed with higher quality than Hollywood has produced in many years.

The problem with all this is that it’s a shiny piece of Hollywood product and, as such, feels more than a little synthetic. Its pleasures are real but fleeting and featherweight, created in a lab to elicit a specific response. Leitch and his crew have crafted the film strongly enough that it works. “The Fall Guy” is nothing if not a hilarious high-octane thrill ride, but it’s been precisely calibrated to elicit exactly those descriptors. It adheres so firmly to formula and executes it so flawlessly that it feels like both a promise and a threat: Movies are back, baby, and wouldn’t you rather see glamorous movie stars being larger-than-life movie stars for your entertainment than watch a genuine artistic statement?

Luckily, the ace up the film’s sleeve is also a genuine artistic statement from Leitch about the blood, sweat, tears, and love that go into making shiny pieces of Hollywood product. Combined with the vibrant star power of Blunt and Gosling, “The Fall Guy” is as endearing as it is entertaining.

THE RECAP

THE GOOD - Big-budget action-comedy spectacle done better than Hollywood has done it in years. Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt are a match made in movie star heaven.

THE BAD - The sardonic humor sometimes undermines the sweet, if basic, romance.

THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - Best Sound & Best Visual Effects

THE FINAL SCORE - 7/10

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Dan Bayer
Dan Bayer
Performer since birth, tap dancer since the age of 10. Life-long book, film and theatre lover.

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<b>THE GOOD - </b>Big-budget action-comedy spectacle done better than Hollywood has done it in years. Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt are a match made in movie star heaven.<br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>The sardonic humor sometimes undermines the sweet, if basic, romance.<br><br> <b>THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - </b><a href="/oscar-predictions-best-sound/">Best Sound</a> & <a href="/oscar-predictions-best-visual-effects/">Best Visual Effects</a><br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>7/10<br><br>"THE FALL GUY"