Written by Tom Augustine.

There’s two things that go into an effective send-up of Hollywood filmmaking culture – razor-sharp accuracy and balls. That’s why there aren’t many of them out there. The Player. Bowfinger. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Twin Coen achievements Barton Fink and Hail, Caesar! Without thinking outside the box and including something like Mulholland Dr., the number of successful efforts is small, but it’s not hard to see why. Hollywood is an amorphous place, the hub of an ever-changing and evolving business. What makes for a compelling target one day may no longer register the next and the big, obvious cliches about Hollywood, from its plastic egomaniac superstars to its ruthless corporate honchos, are so well-worn that it’s hard to inject a new perspective into the mix. The film within a film in The Fall Guy, David Leitch’s new action rom-com that also attempts, and fails, to lampoon the Hollywood industry, is a film called Metalstorm. It’s directed by Jody Moreno (Emily Blunt), one half of the romantic couple whose love story is the driving force of the film. The film looks to be an original concept with a giant budget (strike one), directed by a first-time director (strike two), who also happens to be a woman who faces very few obstacles in seeing her vision through (strike three). That the film also appears to be some godawful swirl of Mad Max, Zack Snyder and the Vin Diesel Riddick movies is just the icing on the cake – it’s also the ‘dream’ project of Moreno, despite the fact that we know so little about her that we have no idea why it would be.


These might seem like minor quibbles, even nitpicking, in a film that largely seeks to be an entertaining adventure, as well as an ode to the work of stuntpeople, who are long overdue genuine recognition in the film industry. But it’s the kind of quibble that doubles as a symptom of the wider problems of The Fall Guy, a film that sets out to be an inside-baseball Hollywood lampoon on top of all it’s other goals, and falls woefully short of the mark. A friend of mine observed after watching the film that it’s astonishing how The Fall Guy feels like it was made by people who have never been on a set before, so vapid is its jabs at the system and so messy is its conception of the project that serves as the film’s setting. That’s not necessarily a dealbreaker, but it remains something that feels like it should be pretty easy barrier to clear if a loving sendup is your end goal. The Fall Guy is a remake of the classic Lee Majors television show – Ryan Gosling, fresh off a Barbie Oscar nomination, plays Colt Seavers, an ex-stuntman living in a kind of self-imposed exile after an on-set injury led to the rupture of his relationship with Moreno. Seavers is lured back to the Sydney set of Moreno’s first film – Metalstorm – under false pretences. Fooled by the viperish manager of the film’s star Tom Ryder (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), who Seavers used to stand-in for, what the wayward stuntie initially believes is an invitation to rekindle with Jody turns into a lackadaisical manhunt for Ryder, who has mysteriously vanished. 

Despite the efforts of a game Ryan Gosling, director David Leitch’s update of the classic television show is a wearying attempt at an action rom-com, one that lacks the verve and effortlessness of the best of its genre. At once toothless and entirely too pleased with itself, it’s a nonstarter that fails to capitalise on Gosling’s movie-star charisma.

I hesitate with the word ‘mystery’ there – it’s not an especially mysterious film (indeed, it’s pretty clear who the culprit is from the moment Seavers lands in Australia) and the film seems only mildly interested in the particulars of the vanishing. The film is a lot more interested in Seavers and Moreno’s relationship, and the slow but certain reuniting of the couple. This means the dragging first half of the movie feels rudderless, aimless. There’s a glimmer here of perhaps what director Leitch was intending – a film about a bumbling semi-detective half-assing his way into solving a mystery but getting caught up in endless digressions, sort of like a macho Fletch or even Inherent Vice – but Leitch lacks the storytelling prowess to really commit to this bit or make it sing. Instead we get a litany of meandering sequences that seem to rehash the same cathartic conversation between the two ex-lovers, while slowly inching toward something like a moment of excitement. It’s an odd affliction for a meaty action comedy like The Fall Guy to have, but seems to be a problem of the filmmakers attempting to serve too many masters, as they try to send up the Hollywood system, portray the plights and joys of the stuntperson trade, generate a sparkling Romancing The Stone-style romance, and serve up intrigue and thumping action in equal spades. 


The film does have one ace up its sleeve, and that’s Gosling, one of the last true movie stars. His name and chiselled bod on the poster is generally enough to warrant a ticket alone, and it’s about the only thing that The Fall Guy has boosting its numbers, give or take some really choice moments of stunt work. One of Gosling’s strengths is his ability to appear effortless while slyly giving it his all – a strength The Fall Guy attempts to emulate generally and fails at miserably – and he’s really on here, mugging for the camera or smouldering, abs a-ripple. It’s not too far removed from his revelatory turn in The Nice Guys, and indeed the Shane Black-led formula of that film seems to be what the writers and directors have gone for here, but with all the guts, idiosyncrasy and savagery drained out. What’s left is smugness and clumsiness. The problem seems to stem from Leitch’s direction, which seems determined to undercut the film’s jokes and moments of romance through sloppy editing and uninspired blocking. It’s a frustrating experience to watch Gosling set up a moment time and again, just to watch it flail and expire. Blame may also be apportioned to some woeful casting choices as well – while Gosling is reliably excellent in a role he could pull off in his sleep, he’s put up against performers that never quite get a handle on the characters they’re playing. The one who suffers the most is Blunt, who never clicks in the role and whose chemistry with Gosling never goes beyond the intellectual. The chilly Brit, better suited to period dramas or cerebral sci-fis, is an odd choice for the role of a scrappy, down-to-earth cameraperson-turned-filmmaker, and moments of banter or flirtation are mostly stilted and anaemic. Pour one out for poor Hannah Waddingham, too, who tries heroically to imbue her lecherous manager Gail with scenery-chewing nastiness but who feels dropped in from a film even more cartoonish than the one she’s in. As for wonderful supporting actors like Australia’s wonderful Teresa Palmer, or Oscar-nominee Stephanie Hsu, or Us’ Winston Duke? Take a good look while you can – they barely register in the maelstrom.   


Where The Fall Guy does eventually come to life is in its action sequences, which explains why the second half of this quite long film far outpaces the first. Leitch is clearly passionate about the work of stuntpeople, and the film’s attempts to explore the ins-and-outs of on-set stunt life, while hardly revelatory, at least feel assuring and lacking in cynicism. Likewise, the stunts themselves are strong, particularly in a mid-film chase that finds Gosling clinging to the back of a garbage hauler as it careens through Sydney traffic. Leitch, the director of some of the true stinkers of the modern blockbuster era – this is the mind behind Deadpool 2, Hobbs & Shaw and Bullet Train after all – here attempts to inject some sort of personality to the proceedings, but never escapes a feeling of self-consciousness, an unwillingness to go past arms-length that fatally ensures that stretches of this film are quite boring. Through the intensity of Gosling’s turn we are given to caring about Colt, but the world around him? Not so much. It’s a shame that Gosling is still in search of a blockbuster role worthy of the superstar pull he carries. Even more alarming is the fact that even an easy sell like The Fall Guy can fumble the ball. All is not right in the state of Hollywood.

The Fall Guy is in cinemas now.


The Fall Guy

Movie title: The Fall Guy (Leitch, 2024)

Movie description: Despite the efforts of a game Ryan Gosling, director David Leitch’s update of the classic television show is a wearying attempt at an action rom-com, one that lacks the verve and effortlessness of the best of its genre. At once toothless and entirely too pleased with itself, it’s a nonstarter that fails to capitalise on Gosling’s movie-star charisma.

Date published: April 26, 2024

Country: United States

Author: Drew Pearce, Glen A. Larson

Director(s): David Leitch

Actor(s): Ryan Gosling, Emily Blunt

Genre: Action, Comedy,

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