The HoloFiles

REVIEW: The Fall Guy

By George & Josh Bate

The Fall Guy review
L to R: Ryan Gosling is Colt Seavers and Emily Blunt is Judy Moreno in THE FALL GUY, directed by David Leitch

Throughout the history of filmmaking, there have been many unsung heroes who went without the praise or attention that other key individuals received. There is no greater example of an overlooked yet vital element of the filmmaking process than stunt performers. Perplexingly, the Academy Awards continue to not have a category honoring stunt performers, despite many voices in the industry championing this profession. And it’s championing that this profession definitely deserves. Stunt performers are integral in executing the seemingly impossible and maintaining suspended disbelief regarding the illusion that this is all just one person (and not multiple people playing the same character). Their understated roles in films speaks to how seamlessly they work, simultaneously right in the face of the audience while never taking the audience out of the experience and away from the character at hand. Quentin Tarantino highlighted stunt performers in his latest film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, which saw Brad Pitt play Cliff Booth, the longtime stuntman for Leonardo DiCaprio’s Rick Dalton. But, for the most part, stunts have seldom received the attention they deserve.

That changes in The Fall Guy, a new film from director David Leitch (Deadpool 2, Bullet Train) that positions stunt performers front and center. Ryan Gosling stars as Colt Seavers, a prolific and well-renowned, yet under-appreciated, stunt man. Colt Seavers is the stuntman for famous actor Tom Ryder (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) before he suffers an injury that seemingly brings his career to an abrupt end. After recovering from the injury, Colt is brought back in the mix when Ryder vanishes and he is tasked with finding the actor he served as stunt man for so many times. Alongside Gosling’s Colt Seavers is Emily Blunt as Jody Moreno, an assistant director who gets promoted to helm a big-scale sci-fi action film that Ryder is starring in.

Ryan Gosling is Colt Seavers in THE FALL GUY, directed by David Leitch

The plot of The Fall Guy is a gripping, one that hooks the audience in and grabs its attention almost immediately. Leitch’s film falls into the category of movies-about-movies as its character and plot are embedded with the very film industry that made The Fall Guy come to be. Unfortunately, what starts as an excellent idea for a rare action-comedy blockbuster not set within a sprawling cinematic universe goes awry quite quickly. The plot of the film is by no means confusing, but the way in which crucial pieces of information are revealed to the audience (and the timing of such reveals) makes a lot of the events and characters’ decisions seem silly and eye-rolling. When everything comes together, the audience can see why the characters are doing what they’re doing, although, until that point, the plotting feels rather mindless. In other terms, why Hannah Waddingham’s character, the agent of Taylor-Johnson’s Tom Ryder, chooses a retired stuntman to rescue the actor makes more sense come the end of the film, but until then, it just feels like a lazy way to push a stunt performer into action outside of set.

The silliness in the film’s narrative is somewhat offset by a bubbly tone that never takes itself too seriously. The script by Drew Pearce (Iron Man 3, Hobbs & Shaw), which is loosely based on the 1980s television series The Fall Guy, lays a foundation for the film that is both light and easily digestible. Although the humor often feels forced, there is an undeniable energy and lightness in Leitch’s film that. at minimum, entertains. The tone never breaches into truly absurd territory, but one can’t help but think how the film would have turned out if it had an absurd tone to couple its rather absurd premise.

The Fall Guy review
Emily Blunt is Judy Moreno in THE FALL GUY, directed by David Leitch

Beyond poor execution of a solid plot and jumbled attempts at humor, Ryan Gosling does his best to pull up The Fall Guy. His performance as Seavers is solid, if not straightforward and predictable, and shows that Gosling most excels with comedic roles (look no further than The Nice Guys and Barbie). Emily Blunt, on the other hand, feels slightly miscast as Jody Moreno. Blunt is undoubtedly an excellent actor, as demonstrated by her resounding and Oscar-nominated performance in last year’s Oppenheimer, but Jody Moreno does not feel like the right role for her. Blunt seems uncomfortable during some of the comedic events, playing the deadpan character reacting as the audience would be, and it feels at times as if her talent is wasted here.

The Fall Guy is helmed by director David Leitch, who previously worked extensively as a stunt performer and stunt coordinator. The personal touch that Leitch brings here is evident, and the appreciation shown to all stunt people feels genuine. The Fall Guy is a true love letter to the unsung heroes that are stunt performers and ultimately worth a watch for this reason alone. And, given that this is a film about a stunt man, Leitch doesn’t shy away from action in his feature. The director continues to exhibit his penchant for well-crafted action sequences with a number of fantastically orchestrated set-pieces in his latest work. An action sequence in the form of a car chase in the streets of Sydney is among the film’s most memorable. Even when the story and humor fall flat, Leitch’s direction makes sure that the audience will at least be entertained by dazzling action throughout.

The Fall Guy review
Aaron Taylor-Johnson in THE FALL GUY, directed by David Leitch

Particular praise must also go to Dominic Lewis, who composed the score for the film. The music fits well with the film’s often wild and wacky tone, while also playing into the romance between Gosling and Blunt’s characters. Memorably, composer Lewis uses the rock song “I Was Made For Lovin’ You” by KISS in a central role throughout the film. This not a James Gunn-esque needle-drop usage of the song, but, rather, an innovative and clever incorporation of a song into the musical score that few, if any, films have done in this way before.

The Fall Guy review
Hannah Waddingham is Gail Meyers in THE FALL GUY, directed by David Leitch

VERDICT: 6/10

The Fall Guy champions the unsung heroes of stunt performing in an entertaining and genuine, albeit flawed, blockbuster. A refreshing departure from big-budget summer films part of sprawling cinematic universes, director David Leitch’s latest film is an admirably original and light-hearted adventure. An excellent premise is executed poorly, however, with a mismatched tone and inconsistent humor, although star Ryan Gosling shows once again that he nails comedic roles. Intricately constructed action sequences and an innovative score from composer Dominic Lewis amplify what is ultimately a mixed bag, one well-intentioned in its honoring of stunt performers and yet jumbled in its tone and plotting.

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