The Fall Guy – TPToA Review

The Fall Guy (2024)

For many of us Generation X kids, “The Fall Guy” was a TV show we sometimes got to watch when our parents let us stay up a bit later; the one where Lee Majors did cool things, he had a big truck, and there was a pretty lady. Some folks may have clearer memories of it than me, but that’s essentially all I could dredge up from my childhood. I don’t think I was really aware of the whole stuntman connection at the time (I was 6, to be fair); it was just another action show that was a bit like “The A-Team,” a bit like “Knight Rider,” and a bit like “The Dukes of Hazzard”. Here was a manly man with a macho name — Colt — who smoked cigars, got in fights, and had weekly adventures. The fact that I didn’t absorb the ‘stuntman’ aspect is a pretty spectacular piece of childlike myopia, given that the opening song was called “The Unknown Stuntman” and was sung by Lee Majors himself. In my own defence, Colt Seavers (Majors) was a bounty hunter AND a stuntman, so I’m guessing the bounty hunter part landed stronger than his stunt career in my childish mind.


At any rate, this show was simply part of the landscape for me; not a load-bearing structure of my developing mind, but certainly part of the furniture. It filled its timeslot and presumably was a favourite to many millions of people in the ’80s. So how then does it fare when brought back into the cold, hard light of day onto the big screen over 40 years later? Well, before we get to that, I think it’s really important to talk about what the film version of “The Fall Guy” actually is, and also what it isn’t.

What it comprehensively is not is a remake of the TV show. Yes, the lead character is a stuntman called Colt Seavers (this time played by KEN, Ryan Gosling), but is he a hard-bitten, cigar-chomping, badass bounty hunter driving his GMC truck around? No. Just like Fall Guy’s director David Leitch (formerly Brad Pitt’s stuntie), our protagonist is a career stuntman who has developed a successful career as the go-to stunt double for the world’s biggest, most bankable movie star, Tom Ryder (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). His life, career, and love interest are derailed when he is injured in a relatively simple stunt gone wrong. The film follows his attempts to regain all three of these losses by working on a new film directed by his cinematographer ex-lover, Jody Moreno (Emily Blunt), and saving it from a series of potential disasters, most of which revolve around his fragile movie star counterpart. It’s a fun premise and feels a long way away from the source material of the TV show.

A blonde man (Ryan Gosling) pulls on the toggles of a blonde woman's (Emily Blunt) sun hat, looking deep into her eyes. they are on the sandy, beach set of a film in production.
Now Emily, in Australia you have to slip, slop and Slap…

What “The Fall Guy” IS, is screenwriter Drew Pearce‘s passionate love letter to stunts, the people who make them, and the film industry itself. This was highlighted to me as we sat in the premiere screening in Sydney, Australia (where the film is set and was almost entirely shot). Surrounding us in the audience were literally hundreds of stunt professionals: performers, effects technicians, drivers, safety officers, combat specialists, pyrotechnicians, pilots… the list could go on forever (and does, at the end of damn near every action movie you’ll ever watch). All these behind-the-scenes film workers had come to see a movie that unabashedly celebrates their craft, and they weren’t remotely shy about celebrating their moments in the sun.

They were absolutely here for this film… Guinness World Record-breaking 8.5 times car cannon roll? Thunderous cheers! A spectacular fight sequence on the back of a truck across the Sydney Harbour Bridge AND Tunnel? Raucous hooting and hollering! A stunt performer shows up and gets a funny line? Utter meltdown! There was a moment where there was a complicated fight sequence with really solid choreography which was viewed in utter silence. That wasn’t because the crowd was uninterested; quite the opposite! They were watching it intently, appreciating the technical skill and lapping up the stunt-heavy focus of the director’s eye. This was a crowd of stunt connoisseurs savouring the feast they were served up.

a line up of five idenitcally dressed gold covered "space cowboy" characters, in hats, sunglasses and shiny coats. the two closest to the camera are Ryan Gosling and Aaron Taylor Johnson. The rest are stunt doubles.
Stuntman and star (Gosling), star (Johnson), stuntman, stuntman, stuntman. We’re seeing doubles!

Stunts continue to be one of the least-appreciated aspects of the movie-making industry, and for a number of years now, the campaign to have them recognised at major awards shows has been gaining traction. Knowing how to fake a hit, swing a sword, fall safely, or throw a punch has been an essential skill for performers since we first stepped onto a stage or told stories by campfire. It is one of the oldest professions in the entertainment industry; clowns and jesters capered and pratfell for room and board, while wandering players could stage the hell out of a battle off the back of a wagon! Stunts have become more professionalised and recognised as a skill set of their own (distinct from acting), and today it’s an industry grounded in safety. By its nature, though, it is undeniably dangerous; we need only look at news stories from the sets of“Rust” and “Deadpool 2” to hear of stunts going horrifically wrong. It’s heartening to see a film like this give the stunt industry the well-deserved respect and recognition it seldom receives.

Now, industrial discussion aside, let’s talk about the film itself. “The Fall Guy” is a funny monkey of a movie that really feels like the product of a bunch of enthusiasm, with not quite enough attention towards where its plot is going. The action beats are all solid, there’s no question there. But the connective tissue and the emotional landscape that it’s happening in and around are where things get a bit unsteady. The plot feels like it’s mostly about getting from set-piece to set-piece. However, there’s a bunch of very cinema-literate in-jokes and sequences that fail to engage as emotionally as they might because they’re trying too hard to be clever.


Bizarrely, some of the cast are almost entirely absent from the film, meaning their weight in the plot is undermined. Others are giving it 110% and mugging pretty spectacularly in all of their scenes, to the point of being caricatures more than characters. Secondary characters come and go with little impact, and some seem to have been added purely for a fight scene or stunt that does nothing to further the plot or develop the characters. It’s messy, undisciplined, and often feels like it was more about the fun had on set than the fun had watching it.

Don’t get me wrong; it’s not bad, it’s a fun ride. If you know Sydney, it’s hilarious to play a game of “That’s not where that street goes?” and “How did they get from there to there in nanoseconds?!” while watching. But it’s also a bit of a mess and uneven in its pacing and tone. The odds are, however, that you won’t care that much because it is gorgeously shot by Jonathan Sela. Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt make an oddly endearing couple, and the visual action is really second-to-none. And if you’re one of those thousands of stunt people all over the world who has put your body on the line for years and years for the sake of entertainment, this one is most definitely for you.

a love letter to stunts and the people who perform them. It is mostly a workable film too.
It's a mess and stumbles its way through a mostly serviceable plot, which relies heavily on Gosling and Blunt's charm to get it through. But if you like great action set in iconic sydney locations its a giggle.
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