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Film Review: The Fall Guy

FILM REVIEW
THE FALL GUY
Rated PG-13
125 Minutes
Released May 3rd

I went into this movie anticipating a serious deep dive into the movie stunt profession, as director David Leitch, used to be Brad Pitt’s go-to stuntman. I worked closely with stunt people on sets in the past and have great respect for them. I began to realize that this was more of a romp, with incredible stunts and brilliant action scenes peppered through a romance about a stuntman and his director, played by the always charming Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt. 

The movie combines a movie within a movie, a murder mystery, and several frenetic chases. There’s not a strong narrative flow, but rather a story within a story, or maybe a couple of them. You will, however, witness many memorable and extraordinary action scenes that are beautifully performed, shot, and edited by cinematographer Jonathan Sela and editor Elisabet Ronaldsdottir.

The idea for the movie was conceived by producer Guymon Cassady, who wanted to make a film based on the popular 1980s TV show The Fall Guy starring Lee Majors as a stuntman. Cassady approached Leitch and his writer, Drew Pearce, who jumped at the opportunity. Pearce had watched the TV show as a kid and was obsessed with stunts and stunt artists. Among Pearce’s past credits are the stunt-heavy films Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation and Iron Man 3.

Leitch brainstormed with his team on classic stunts to include in the film, highlighting an era before special effects, when more stunts were done on camera. They built the story around the stunts, perhaps not the best choice for the storyline. However, the great cast pulls you in. Ryan Gosling is in his element as “Colt Seavers,” a guy who would normally be the tough silent type, but Gosling gives him charisma, sensitivity, and emotion. Emily Blunt as director “Jody Moreno” battles her emotions with frustration. 

I would like to have seen in her a hint of a wild intensity and drive earlier in the story. Hannah Waddingham is hilariously strident as producer “Gail Meyer,” and Aaron Taylor-Johnson is well cast as movie star, “Tom Ryder.” Winston Duke and Stephanie Hsu are excellent. Teresa Palmer has great action sequences but she’s there and then gone too quickly. A stand-out is Jean-Claude, an amazing stunt dog, who only understands French commands.

You will see car flips, boat chases, helicopter jumps, fire burns, hand-to-hand martial arts, shoot-outs, and high falls. But I would like to have seen more up close and personal details about the work of the stunt professionals. In one of the best scenes, Colt terrifies Ryder by having him ride with him in the stunt car. This would never really happen on set – insurance would be pulled. But it makes the point. Stunt pros should have more respect. 

So, here’s what I would like to have seen in this film: how did Cole decide to become a stuntman? What training did he have to go through, for how many years? What was his initiation into this tight-knit group of fearless athletic technicians? One of the film’s stuntmen performed a first-time 150-foot fall for the shoot. Stunt driver Logan Holladay broke a record with eight “cannon rolls,” a small air cannon is inserted into the floor of a car, and detonated just at the right moment so that the car goes into a multiple rollover. 

In The Fall Guy, I see the finished product of these feats, and I would be fascinated to see the daredevil courage that went into making them happen. Gosling says of stunt pros, “They are the unsung heroes who risk life and limb for cinema.” At SXSW, the actor announced to fans, “I’m Ryan Gosling, and I did almost none of my own stunts in this movie.”

Will there be a sequel? I hope so. I would like to see the world of stunt pros in depth. This would be my plot – producers want to distribute a “making of” film for Metalstorm, the sci-fi cowboy epic being directed by Jody within The Fall Guy. So, the greatest stunts must be done over again because they didn’t have cameras rolling during the setups. One producer thinks it could all be done in editing by AI, as are many stunts in today’s cinematic world. This leads to a big argument, a hilarious AI sizzle reel is produced, and intrigue – spies lurking around the stunt sets trying to steal secrets. Make it happen, Universal Pictures!

PS: There are stunt women as well as stunt men. One of the greatest, Jeannie Epper, who handled Lynda Carter’s stunts on Wonder Woman and Kathleen Turner’s in Romancing the Stone, just passed away at the age of 83. She performed in more than 100 films and TV shows.
Kathryn Whitney Boole has spent most of her life in the entertainment industry, which has been the backdrop for remarkable adventures with extraordinary people.  She is a Talent Manager with Studio Talent Group in Santa Monica. kboole@gmail.com

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