The Fall Guy

The Fall Guy is a very loose adaptation of the ‘80s TV show that starred Lee Majors. My friends and I watched it religiously, although it was as much for co-star Heather Thomas as for the plot, which follows a Hollywood stuntman who moonlights as a bounty hunter. (One of my best friends still had Thomas’s poster on his bedroom wall a decade after the program went off the air.) Truth be told, it was pretty silly. Director David Leitch (Deadpool 2) and screenwriter Drew Pearce embrace that silliness, which turns out to be the exact right approach to make the movie a ton of fun.

Colt Seavers (Ryan Gosling) is considered the best stuntman in Hollywood until he disappears after breaking his back in a gig gone wrong. A late-night phone call from producer Gail Meyer (Hannah Waddingham) convinces him to come to Australia and work on Metalstorm, the directorial debut of his ex-girlfriend, Jody Moreno (Emily Blunt). Upon arrival, he discovers that Gail has an ulterior motive. The movie’s star, Tom Ryder (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), is missing. Since Colt has been Tom’s stunt double for years, she figures he can find him. This task unexpectedly brings repeated danger. Colt’s biggest challenge, though, is getting Jody to warm back up to him.

Rather than playing the concept straight, The Fall Guy is smart enough to use it as an excuse to put Colt in a series of scenes where his distinct performing abilities come in handy. After all, he knows how to fall from a tall building without getting killed, execute fighting moves, pull off crazy driving techniques, and jump boats through explosions. Leitch has a good time staging the outlandish action sequences, one of which is set to an old Phil Collins song and finds Colt battling a group of baddies while being dragged through the streets of Sydney on an errant piece of garbage truck. The finale is even wilder, incorporating a multi-vehicle chase through the desert that would make Mad Max: Fury Road jealous.

That type of meta quality permeates the film. Jokes about and references to well-known action pictures are everywhere. At times, the characters almost seem to be commenting on The Fall Guy itself, as when Jody ponders a split-screen sequence while talking on the phone to Colt in an elaborately staged split-screen sequence. Walking the line of self-parody isn’t easy, yet the inventiveness it’s carried out with here is endearing. The knowingly playful tone makes everything click.

The Colt/Jody love story remains at the center. Gosling is hilarious as the macho stuntman with a vulnerable side. He gives the character a cocky demeanor that humorously melts away in his true love’s premise. Blunt nicely bounces off him by emphasizing the pressure Jody is under. Right when she’s supposed to be concentrating on her first directorial effort, an ex shows up to distract her. The stars have appealing chemistry together, getting a lot of mileage from the romantic scenario.

As expected, the stunt work is absolutely incredible. You get to see a car do a record-breaking barrel roll, tumbling end-over-end eight times. There are dizzying falls from great heights, including from an airborne helicopter to an air bag on the ground. A terrifying car jump may have you holding your breath. As a former stuntman himself, Leitch has structured the movie to pay tribute to those in the profession. After seeing it, the joke about how the Oscars ignore stunt performers hits even harder.

The Fall Guy is made with palpable cheer and enthusiasm. It goes for broke in entertaining the audience with a mixture of comedy, romance, and outrageous action. And the use of real stunts in lieu of CGI-enhancements gives it a nice old-school feel. In the realm of motion pictures about stuntmen, you’ve got Richard Rush’s The Stunt Man on the high end and the Hal Needham/Burt Reynolds flick Hooper on the low end. The Fall Guy lands firmly in the upper middle section. Not a classic, but certainly an enjoyable way to spend two hours.

out of four

The Fall Guy is rated PG-13 for action and violence, drug content, and some strong language. The running time is 2 hours and 6 minutes.


© 2024 Mike McGranaghan