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"The Fall Guy" 4K Review

 The 2024 Summer movie season started with a thud as the hotly anticipated big screen reboot of the old 1980s TV series The Fall Guy starring Ryan Gosling (fresh off of an Oscar nomination for Barbie) and Emily Blunt (fresh off an Oscar nomination for Oppenheimer). Retooled as a rom-com action caper, it was expected to kick things off with a bang. Instead it was a damp squib grossing only $34M its opening weekend leading to it's being rushed to streaming after only 19 days in release while still in theaters. It had decent reviews and the stars are well-liked, so what went wrong?

Well, for starters, it's not a particularly good movie with a bad script, but since when has that been an impediment to financial success for Hollyweird?

Gosling stars as Colt Seavers, ace stuntman who's having a fling with Blunt's camera operator Jody Moreno. He's the lead stunt double for a-hole movie star Tom Ryder (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), but things go very wrong on a stunt and his back is broken.

18 months later, he's out of the business and working as a valet when the call comes from producer Gail Meyer (Hannah Waddingham, Ted Lasso) that she needs him to fly to Australia to double Ryder after his stunt double is injured. He's reluctant, but when he hears the director is Jody, making her debut, he hops on the plane, arriving on the set jet-lagged, but glad to see the stunt coordinator is Dan Tucker (Winston Duke, Black Panther). Less glad to see him is Jody who subjects him to repeated takes of a fire stunt while discussing their failed relationship over a bullhorn in transparently veiled terms.

Gail tells Colt what he's really needed for is to locate Ryder who's gone missing from the set, presumably on a bender. She tells him that unless he finds the wayward star and returns him to the set, the movie will be shut down and Jody's big break will be ruined. So of course he heads out to find Ryder, but instead finds what appears to be Ryder's corpse in a tub filled with ice which leaves Colt the prime suspect.

There are so many problems with The Fall Guy's script that it's hard to know where to begin, but since it's a rom-com/action flick we should begin with the childish relationship Colt and Jody supposedly have. Writer Drew Pearce (Iron Man 3, Hobbs & Shaw, Hotel Artemis) seems to never been in a relationship with an adult as every chemistry-free exchange between the two mistakes coyness for banter and they're so silly that I began rooting for them to not get together as is pre-ordained by these sorts of movies.

The caper plot is wildly convoluted and requires so many outside players that it'd never hold together, but what really stuck out was how many things would never happen even by the loose reality standards of silly popcorn movies. Jody would never advance from camera operator to director. Cinematographer or 2nd unit director, sure; operator, never. Colt's injury ended his career and we see him putting some electrical stimulator on it, but as he is repeatedly beaten, hit by cars, making high falls, etc. he never seems to suffer any ill effects.

Most egregious is the aforementioned scene where Jody repeatedly has Colt set on fire then thrown on wires into a rock (back injury, remember?) as obvious retribution for his falling out of her life after the accident. She is openly making it clear she's doing this to punish the man she supposedly feels for, but instead of being cute and romantic as Pearce imagines, it comes of as cruel and would be career suicide. Michael Bay wouldn't get away with enacting a personal vendetta against a stunt player - the stunt coordinator would step in and the studio would whack him - so there's no way a rookie female director would work again especially if Colt was injured.

There's a character of Ryder's assistant, Alma (Stephanie Hsu, Everything Everywhere All At Once), who appears out of nowhere, participates in an action sequence, then vanishes without a trace and the movie within the movie's starlet, Iggy Palmer (Teresa Palmer, Warm Bodies), has a wild fight scene with Colt that makes no logical sense. The movie feels like it's missing chunks of plot to make it a still too long 2h 5m runtime.

While the script may be problematic, the greater problem is that David Leitch is not good at balancing tone in comedy and basic storytelling mechanics. Frankly, every movie he's made since "co-directing John Wick" has been inferior to the John Wick sequels directed by Chad Stahelski. Ive seen them all, so let's run 'em down:

Atomic Blonde - Very good except for having one too many twists at the end - seriously, drop any one of them and it's a better movie; having them all trips it up - and the fatal flaw of telling the story as flashbacks so there's never any tension because we know she survives. (Steven Soderbergh made the same mistake with Haywire.)

Deadpool 2 - The humor too often felt forced and mean-spirited compared to the original. Drags on too long.

F&F Hobbs & Shaw - More forced humor as it makes the fundamental mistake of trying to be a buddy action movie in which both leads get to be the funny guy. 48 Hours or Lethal Weapon had odd couple pairings, one wild man, one straight man; H&S had both Rock & Statham playing for laughs which Idris Elba was in a different, more serious movie, then stopped everything dead for Ryan Reynolds & Kevin Hart cameos.

Bullet Train - More tedious blathering "humor" with Brian Tyree Henry's endless nattering on about what Thomas the Tank Engine character various people represent. Who talks like this? No one. Once again, cool action fights wasted on clunky storytelling.

Leitch can stage and execute action well, but when it comes to telling a story or doing comedy - which is an art that comedy directors often struggle with (looking at you, John Landis) - he messes it up more than not. In The Fall Guy he makes a fatal mistake in shooting long rom-com banter scenes as single-take oners. Comedy is about timing and editing can make it sing, but when there's nothing to cut away to then you just have people babbling tediously.

 All the actors do what they can with the weak script and poor direction - Leitch, being a former stuntman both gets into the nitty gritty of how stunts are done and also shows patently unsafe or impossible practices - but poor Blunt really suffers from the weak writing. The missus proposed that someone like Rachel McAdams (The Notebook reunion!) may've been better, but I don't anyone could've overcome the structural issues of script and direction.

And if Hollyweird doesn't want to keep losing money, they need to stop letting Leitch make mediocre movies.

Score: 5/10. Catch it on cable/streaming.

The opening and closing bits on the street and screening room aren't in the actual movie.


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