Features Live Action Movies

The Fall Guy

Director – David Leitch – 2024 – US – Cert. 12a – 126m


A stuntman, who retired from the movies are sustaining an injury on set, is hired to trace the vanished star of the movie being directed by his former camera operator and girlfriend – out in UK cinemas on Thursday, May 2nd

Colt Seavers (Ryan Gosling) is a stunt double for big star Tom Ryder (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), who allegedly does his own stunts. Retakes are common – for instance, if Colt is showing too much face, and it can be seen in the take that it’s him, not the star. Colt is fine with that – it’s just part of the business.

Gail Meyer (Hannah Waddingham) is Tom’s regular producer and has managed his career so that his many bad habits never appear on the screen or where they can be seen by the public. He is currently the world’s most bankable action star.

Jody Moreno (Emily Blunt) is a camera assistant. Colt and Jody are a couple, although they try not to make it obvious on the set.

Colt’s work requires all sorts of safety protocols be followed. On one occasion, someone behind the scenes messes up, and Colt falls from a great height and breaks his back. 

In line, perhaps, with the idea of Hollywood as dream factory, we see many of Colt’s stunts, filmed by Jody, in the opening minutes. These include the stunt that goes wrong, except that it fades out as Colt falls from a high up platform into the depths. We never see the moment of impact where things went wrong.

18 months later, producer Gail tracks Colt down working as a valet at a restaurant, where he can’t resist executing many crazy car stunts in the course of his work, although none of the cars is ever even scratched (even if their owners are pushed to the verge of having seizures that they will be). Gail wants to get him back on one of her movie sets. 

The twist is, it’s the one on which she is giving Jody her first chance to direct. And Tom Ryder has gone missing from the set, so Gail wants Colt to try and find him. Because if he doesn’t, Jody won’t have a movie and that will be the end of her Hollywood career.

Cue a series of Leitch-esque action sequences / encounters with strange and bizarre adversaries. Perhaps the most memorable of these is when Colt enters Tom’s house and finds himself attacked by Tom’s actress girlfriend Iggy Starr (Theresa Palmer from Berlin Syndrome, Cate Shortland, 2017) wielding a sword.

Another is an encounter in a club with Tom’s drugs dealer, who slips something in his drink which makes him start seeing unicorns. At this point, Colt is wearing a very light, pastel green suit which glows in UV light, resulting in an unforgettable colour palette.

There are also several technically impressive stunt sequences featuring Gosling and others, but they seem to have been staged for their own sake and left me cold. And I write that as someone who has thrilled to Jackie Chan or Harold Lloyd movies, where you might say the same thing about the stunts, except that I’ve always felt emotionally engaged with the main character in their films, whereas here I didn’t.

The film seems far more interested in exploring the chemistry between Blunt and Gosling – although they are showcased in two different narrative strands and are often on their own on the screen rather than together – and in staging stupendous stunts than in basic storytelling, and this frequently makes it quite hard if not downright impossible to get a handle on.

The fact that Blunt and Gosling are in different locations at one point allows for an arresting split screen sequence as they have a phone conversation about the film she’s directing and whether the use of split screen would be a good idea.

The issue may be the script, or it may be the way the film and its editing have departed from the script. Either way, what’s on the screen feels like a sum of disparate parts that never coalesce. Some of the parts are extraordinary, but there isn’t enough to hold them, together. I liked this even less than Leitch’s previous directorial effort, Bullet Train (2022). Had the film done to me what it set out to do, I believe I would have felt exhilarated; as it was, I felt as if I’d experienced some terrible ordeal and was really glad when it was over.

Which is strange, because on paper, a movie about a stuntman directed by a former stuntman sounds like it could be something very special indeed, and I have great admiration for both Gosling and Blunt. To boot, Leitch has assembled some top stuntmen to produce amazing stunts, including a rolling car that broke a world record. And yet, although there are some great things in it, somehow, for me, this movie just didn’t work.

The Fall Guy is out in cinemas in the UK on Thursday, May 2nd.


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