The Fall Guy

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For a while you couldn’t escape Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt banging the drum for The Fall Guy. They were everywhere, doing Herculean amounts of publicity, usually a sign that a big-bucks movie isn’t quite as good as everyone expected.

Which turns out to be true. But The Fall Guy is not bad. It is entertaining enough, with diverting performances, cool action, stunts and so on. But it’s not a Tom Cruise movie, pleasing though Gosling is as the stunt guy who comes back from serious injury to save the day, get the girl and defeat the bad guy.

We all know, don’t we, that it’s based on the successful TV show starring Lee Majors, which did pretty much week in week out what David Leitch’s film does in one hefty chunk. Except Leitch and his co-writers wind themselves into contortions in an attempt to inject depth, levels, psychological heft, smarts and meta-wotsits into a film that would have been much better if it had been much simpler, like the TV show in fact.

There’s not much more of the plot than already mentioned. Gosling plays stunt guy Colt Seavers, who gets badly injured in the latest high-octane stunt designed to make Seavers’s regular star, Tom Ryder (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), look better than he is. Seavers leaves the industry, only to get called back 18 months later by his old flame, Jody Moreno (Blunt), who is now helming her first movie, a sci-fi spectacular with an astronomical budget.

Except Moreno never made that call. Instead it was her producer, Gail Meyer (Hannah Waddingham), who has resurrected Seavers’s career for reasons of her own.

So, while Colt and Jody get re-acquainted, in enjoyably prickly scenes over far too quickly, Gail schemes, and Tom – off-screen for most of the movie – simmers away in his own starry juices.

Emily Blunt and Ryan Gosling talk in a dark truck
Reunited: Jody Moreno and Colt Seavers

It will come as no surprise to learn that the guy who professionally takes the fall is the star of a film called The Fall Guy, or that Tom Ryder doesn’t come out of it very well. Less well known is that director David Leitch was himself a stuntman for quite a while. He was in fact Brad Pitt’s go-to stunt double in the Ocean’s 11 era, so there’s the temptation to draw a comparison between Leitch and Gosling, or Taylor-Johnon’s Tom Ryder and Mr Pitt. Good luck with that.

Leitch was also involved in the original John Wick film and that appears to be where Leitch really wants to go with his film – action, dry wit, cool locations – but the film’s kinks and curlicues keep getting in the way.

The stunts are good though, and include some lovely car rolls, a chase sequence on land featuring a refuse truck and one on water in which Seavers does a Miami Vice number on a speedboat.

This is the would-be smart movie about action movies that purports to lift the lid on how they’re made, a wannabe meta-movie at its most comfortable when it just gets on and does straightforward action-movie stuff without any frippery.

Just as they did in the media round promoting the film, Gosling and Blunt turn on the charisma, fleshing out people who have very little actual personality. Supporting players get even less of a shake, what with Gosling, Blunt, Waddingham and Taylor-Johnson all to factor in. Teresa Palmer gets nothing to work with at all as Tom Ryder’s co-star. Winston Duke plays stunt arranger Dan Tucker with enough style that you want to see more of him and Zara Michales makes an impression with barely any screen time at all as an assistant something-or-other. There are a lot of assistants and something-or-others in this film.

Forget the hard sell done by Gosling and Blunt, the movie cannot live up to it. Instead open mouth, insert pizza, don’t expect too much and you will enjoy. Cameos by the original stars, Lee Majors and Heather Thomas come very late on, and if you sit through the credits you will be rewarded by making-of footage where you get to see Gosling’s own stunt double, Troy Lindsay Brown, just one of a huge number of stunt guys getting bruised in the name of earning a living.

The Fall Guy – Watch it/buy it at Amazon

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© Steve Morrissey 2024

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