The Fall Guy


Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

The Fall Guy
"Film is an assemblage, a team effort, and in foregrounding the unsung The Fall Guy gets its mix wrong."

The Fall Guy was an early Eighties TV show that followed the adventures and misadventures of a stuntman who moonlighted as a bounty hunter. It was one of a whole slew of shows like The Dukes Of Hazzard and The A-Team where a quantity of loveable rogues, often with a good car, met and then vanquished a villain every week. Glen A Larson, who created the original series, would revisit that formula again and again.

Magnum PI had a borrowed Ferrari, BJ (of And The Bear) had a Kenworth K-100, Buck Rogers had an Earth Defense Directorate Starfighter and Michael Knight had the Knight Industries 2000, better known as KITT. Colt Seavers had a two-tone tan truck, one that suffered so frequently in the show's jumps that later version used in production had a midmounted engine to improve weight distribution and therefore the vehicle's longevity.

On Dukes Of Hazzard they tried to stop the General Lee from nosing forward when it took advantage of convenient ramps near ravines by filling the trunk with concrete. The force of landing with the weight of an agricultural power plant in the front and an architectural ballast in the back meant that orange Dodge Chargers were effectively a consumable. One whose shelf-life might be shorter than similarly coloured fruit or cheese-puffs on the craft tables at lunch.

That technical sense, a perspective on production is one of the more amusing elements of The Fall Guy. It otherwise sits somewhere on the same spectrum as the tat that clutters supermarket aisle-ends in the run-up to Father's Day. It does, at least, avoid the usual balance of beer and bottom-burps but an apron marked 'king of the grill' would have been no more incongruous than a Tag Heuer watch or the current model of that GMC pick-up. There are two, in fact, foregrounded by a scene soundtracked by Taylor Swift but also when they're leant to our protagonist with the words "careful with those, we've only got two and they're product placement". Errol Flynn might have had a stunt team's help to swing from chandeliers but here many of those involved are too busy hanging lampshades.

I was amused when I realised they'd used a sound-effect from The Six-Million Dollar Man. I was somewhat charmed by the chemistry between Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt. I was slightly bored with the use of unicorns to indicate a drug-induced hallucination, but I wasn't sure if it was because it echoed Blade Runner or Deadpool. I caught the conversation about "no Oscars for stunts" and that's Hollywood politicking at its finest. We remarked upon that in our live coverage of the 2024 Academy Awards. I did like the fake movie posters, but they weren't as fun as their equivalents in The Lego Ninjago Movie. I did notice bits from other films, but at a certain point it stopped feeling like bricolage and felt more like bingo.

Jackie Chan is owed a huge debt. There are out-takes and behind the scenes shots in the credits, but the consequence of one emergency stop was clearly lifted from Police Story. Others have done it, but rarely as well. A metallic-orange car in a parking structure was a lift from The Driver, and it's more by accident than design that a vehicle rolls 8 1/2 times. An early voiceover has another echo of Blade Runner. This feels like it's had a heavy-handed edit to make it hang together but that might not be true. An opening sequence of stunts had a few that I recognised and more that I couldn't quite place. Atomic Blonde was in there, but so too I think was GI Joe: The Rise Of Cobra. One of those is quite a bit better than the other, but that's not because of the quality of the action.

Before it fell victim to copyright-strike there was a video online of military pilots firing the AIM-54 Phoenix in training exercises, soundtracked by Golden Earring's Radar Love. The AIM-54 is a radar-guided missile: there is the joke. That's about the level that The Fall Guy operates on. The film uses typewriter effects for parts of its on-screen script and has a whole sub-plot about the lack of a third act for the film within the film, but that kind of metacinematic exploration is tricky. Possibly too tricky for Drew Pearce, who previously penned the Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead of the Fast & Furious films, Hobbs & Shaw. I did enjoy Hotel Artemis but in much the same way as I enjoy any mid-budget accommodation with in-room tea and coffee facilities. It gave me somewhere to spend a few hours. Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation and Iron Man 3 are not watchwords for extending franchises, and TV series No Heroics presaged a lot of latter takes on superheroes on tape but drew from decades of comics that Hollywood would take a while to tap into.

Director David Leitch keeps the action sequences fresh and exciting. They are genuinely impressive, even when they're accompanied by KISS' I Was Made For Lovin' You or its orchestral reprise or its mellow incidental version or its repetition. AC/DC's retirement package gets another boost from yet another appearance of Thunderstruck, and continuing the sense that every track would appear on a CD called Now That's What I Call Music For Dad To Listen To In The Car is a bit of Phil Collins. That's some ideal of a dad though, a spherical one who cannot operate a vacuum. One trapped by nostalgia into recycling content that translates transatlantically in ways that make you think of a mouthful of slugs.

Already available through some streaming services while still in cinemas, The Fall Guy makes a show of show-business and makes some business of doing so. There are some funny moments, some great bits of physical comedy and a fair bit of falling. The use of the Miami Vice theme as a punchline feels lazier than the effort involved in getting there. I also struggled a bit with the 'no VFX, 'no CGI' tone and its villainous associations, when the behind the scenes footage shows so many cables that have been carefully computered out of shot. There's also a camera movement that chases down a valley that could have been done in one take using a drone like the bravura revalation of The Vast Of Night but wasn't. It's the closest the film gets to undermining a lot of its exposition, but loose footing does more than make you pay attention to where cameras are. Film is an assemblage, a team effort, and in foregrounding the unsung The Fall Guy gets its mix wrong. "All killer no filler" might work in some contexts but it's no way to make a sandwich. Despite the quality of some of its ingredients, it makes a meal of it.

Reviewed on: 14 Jun 2024
Share this with others on...
The Fall Guy packshot
A battle-scarred stuntman, is drafted back into service when the star of a mega-budget studio movie - directed by his ex - goes missing.

Director: David Leitch

Writer: Drew Pearce

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Emily Blunt, Winston Duke, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Hannah Waddingham, Stephanie Hsu

Year: 2024

Runtime: 114 minutes

Country: US


SXSW 2024

Streaming on: Amazon

Search database: