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Review: 'The Fall Guy'


The Fall Guy received a ton of pre-release publicity and hype largely centering on its co-stars, Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt.


They are two of the most talented, best-looking actors in the business. 


The movie is about Hollywood stunts and Hollywood stuntmen, a great premise since audiences love hair-raising, death-defying stunts. 


The Fall Guy was directed by former stuntman-turned-director David Leitch, whose films include Atomic Blonde (2017), Dead Pool 2 (2018) and Bullet Train (2022).  All are showcases of inventive, adrenaline-charged stunts and fights. 


They are movies well-worth seeing if you enjoy action movie entertainment.


The Fall Guy had a lot going for it, including the fact that Ryan Gosling, who is reportedly afraid of heights in real life, agreed to do his own stunt for the movie, a 150- foot fall, that appears in the opening reel.

All of these things made me want to see this movie.  It looked like it couldn’t miss.


But then there is the detail of script development.  What The Fall Guy doesn’t have is a very strong story.  While it might garner some attention when it comes to Oscar nominations, it won’t be receiving one for original screenplay.


The story isn’t original, having been loosely based on the TV series The Fall Guy that starred Lee Majors back in the early Eighties, when he appeared as a stunt man who also apprehended criminals while driving around in a tricked-up pickup.


The plot here is essentially, boy meets girl, boy loses girl after sustaining a serious back injury as the result of a dangerous stunt gone wrong, and boy gets girl after signing up to be a stuntman in her movie after she becomes a movie director. 


It’s a movie banking on stunts for entertainment.  The problem is that most of the stunts are ones that we have seen many, many times before. 


They fall short of the kind of eye-popping stunts regularly performed by actors like Tom Cruise who has made a career out of continually raising the bar with seemingly impossible movie stunts.  I am referring, of course to his work in the Mission Impossible series. Stunts are the essence of those movies.  And he never fails to pull audiences back into theaters with evermore dangerous stunts that he performs himself, despite occasional injuries like the ankle injury he sustained during a failed wire-stunt jump between two buildings a few years ago.  I give Tom Cruise a lot of credit.  He is truly fearless.  Or, possibly has a death wish that can’t be controlled.  Either way, I truly admire his guts.

 

What The Fall Guy lacks are movie stunts on that level.  And, face it, it’s what people are paying to see in movies like this.


The subject of movie stunts has been getting a lot of attention in recent years.  Hollywood stunt people have argued that there should be a special category for the year’s best stunts in the Oscar competition.  I happen to agree with them.  No argument.  People risk their lives to perform these stunts.  They are dangerous. 


Occasionally stuntpeople are injured or killed in their line of work.  And their work is often legendary—the stuff that people talk about for decades.  The stuff of Hollywood legend.


The Fall Guy even has a moment when this oversight is brought to light.  I almost applauded.  I know that this clip will get some air during next year’s Academy Awards Show coverage, even if the Academy doesn’t change the rules by then.


It’s a shame that The Fall Guy isn’t a better movie.  Granted, it’s not a bad movie, but it is a movie that failed to cash in on the art of movie stunt work, which I find fascinating.


Sadly, it falls back on movie cliché moments like a battle sequence like the one early in the film in which background special effects (alien spacecraft) are seen as the sequence is being filmed.  As everyone knows, effects like that are added in post-production after the fact.  I know that the depiction of all the background computer-generated action elements juices up the shot, but it’s just not real.


Nor is the scene when Gosling’s stunt man is covered with flammable liquid and set on fire while he is wearing no face protection.  I believe that is a standard safety regulation on set, which is why stuntmen’s faces are usually turned away from the camera in shots like this, or they are so engulfed in flames that you can’t see that their faces are covered.


It’s moments like that that are disappointing in The Fall Guy—a missed opportunity to see how real Hollywood effects are done and the care, planning and preparation that go into the execution of mind-blowing stunts.


What’s left is a by-the-numbers romance between a handsome stuntman and a beautiful, young aspiring director.  And a finale featuring stuntmen fighting stuntmen.


Yes, there are lots of stunts, but we’ve seen them all before.

 


 

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