‘The Fall Guy’ Review: A Highflying Tribute To Hollywood’s Unsung Stunt Heroes – SXSW

In The Fall Guy, audiences are treated to a kinetic journey through the lens of Hollywood’s most daring yet often overlooked contributors: stunt performers. Starring an ensemble cast led by Ryan Gosling, Emily Blunt, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Hannah Waddingham, Stephanie Hsu, Winston Duke and Teresa Palmer, this film not only entertains with its action-packed sequences but also delves deep into the emotional and physical tolls endured by those who bring our favorite cinematic moments to life.

Drawing inspiration from Glen A. Larson’s 1980s TV series, The Fall Guy cleverly navigates the intersection between homage and reinvention. Where the ABC series celebrated the thrill and glamour of stunt work through the eyes of Lee Majors’ Colt Seavers, a stuntman moonlighting as a bounty hunter, Leitch’s film amplifies this concept by embedding the narrative within the fabric of contemporary filmmaking. Gosling’s portrayal of Colt as a stuntman mirrors the dual identities of many working behind the scenes, serving as a metaphor for the hidden yet indispensable role of stunt performers in the industry.

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The Fall Guy begins with a montage of stunt sequences, highlighting director David Leitch’s work and segueing into the lives of Seavers and Jody Moreno (Blunt), whose relationship flourishes amid the fast-paced world of stunt work. When a stunt gone wrong severely injures Colt, sidelining him from the industry, he finds himself relegated to working as a valet eight months later, having disappeared from the business entirely.

A sudden call from producer Gail Meyer (Waddingham) suggests Jody’s request for Colt’s return for a high-risk stunt in Sydney on the set of Metal Storm. However, upon completing the stunt, Colt learns the real reason he is there: to uncover the whereabouts of missing actor Tom Ryder (Taylor-Johnson). Caught up in intrigue, and a quest to rekindle his romance with Jody, Colt embarks on a journey where the lines between his professional and personal life blur. Amidst the chaos, one wonders, what can go wrong?

The Fall Guy excels in its self-aware storytelling and injection of humor, action and romance ensuring that its action sequences are not just visually spectacular but also grounded in relatability. Drew Pearce’s script expertly crafts some of the film’s most hilarious moments from sheer randomness. This spontaneous comedy, emerging from off-the-cuff remarks and visual gags, captivates audiences by subverting expectations. Instead of relying on traditional setup-punchline routines, the film finds its humor in the unexpected, creating a comedic rhythm that feels fresh. This approach reinforces the idea that comedy shines brightest when it catches us off guard.

Leitch’s direction showcases a clear understanding of spatial dynamics and choreography, avoiding the pitfalls of excessive cuts to present action that is both authentic and engaging. This approach, informed by his background in stunt work, elevates the film which is a love letter to the stunt profession and professionals within it. The inclusion of scenes demonstrating the meticulous planning and execution of stunts serves as an education  for the audience, highlighting the complexity and risk involved in creating movie magic. It’s a reminder of the film’s underlying message: the recognition and safety of stunt performers are paramount.

Moreover, the film’s emphasis on weapon safety is timely and critical, echoing recent concerns within the industry regarding the wellbeing of its members. By addressing these issues head-on, The Fall Guy contributes to the ongoing dialogue about the need for systemic change, advocating for the dignity and protection of all who contribute to the storytelling process.

The chemistry between Gosling and Blunt is undeniable. Their characters’ love story provides a soft backbone to The Fall Guy’s hard-hitting action, making the film resonate with those who love action and romance. However, the film stumbles slightly in its depiction of Moreno, whose character development noticeably is tethered to her relationship with Colt. This oversight underscores a broader issue within the industry regarding the creation of multidimensional female characters, particularly in male-dominated fields like stunt work, and direction.

Despite that, The Fall Guy stands as a hilarious and thoughtful tribute to the stunt community, blending action with a poignant exploration of the sacrifices made by these unsung heroes. Despite its narrative imperfections, the film succeeds in shining a spotlight on the critical role of stunt performers in cinema, wrapped in a package of non-stop action and genuine emotion. It’s a testament to the spirit of collaboration and that defines Hollywood at its best.

Title: The Fall Guy
Festival: SXSW (World Premiere)
Distributor: Universal
Release date: May 3, 2024
Director: David Leitch
Screenwriter: Drew Pearce
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Emily Blunt, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Hannah Waddingham, Stephanie Hsu, Winston Duke, Teresa Palmer
Rating: PG-13
Running time: 2 hr 5 min

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