The Fall Guy: Ryan Gosling & Emily Blunt, Two Forces Of Barbenheimer, Get A Thumbs Up In Test ...

So, I watched the Fall Guy, starring Ryan Gosling, and a bunch of other people I don’t really care about, and I came away … “meh.” Not even “Meh!” Just… “…meh…”

I kind of wondered why. It had all the ingredients. A bankable star, big set pieces, charismatic leads and supporting crew, a story. But oddly, I felt unmoved.

In some ways, I think I was hoping for something akin to “The Stuntman.” If you haven’t seen it, go find it. Basically, the Stunt man is about some shlub, he’s escaping prison or something, and he stumbles into a movie set, and ends up in the middle of some hair raising stunt sequence where he’s scrambling, terrified for his life, as everything goes to hell around him, until suddenly the Director yells ‘cut!’

Seems that the movie has lost a stunt man, he died or something, and our hero is thrown into the wild world of movie making, struggling through ridiculously contrived and impossible stunts, as a Godlike Director harangues everyone. Brilliant film. I want to go watch it now.

Then I think there’s an old Burt Reynolds movie, Hooper (guessing) about a stuntman. In it, Reynolds plays a stunt man, slowly wrecking his body, as he commits to increasingly dangerous stunts, second guessing his life, coping with rivals, trying to build a relationship and struggling with a callous director. I don’t know that it’s briliant, and there’s a lot of Burt Reynold’s being Burt in it. But there’s also something genuine in it, perhaps Burt had some resonance and insight into the tough guy stuntmen doing risky, reckless work that makes it worth a watch. That seemed more affecting than the fall guy.

But this? It just never really engages. For a movie about movie stunts, there’s remarkably little engagement. We never see the intricacies of how stunts are pulled off, the meticulous care going into an effect, the degree of planning, or the degree of genuine risk. We mostly just see stunts. But we know they’re all stunts, even when they’re played for real, so it kind of falls into this uncanny valley of artifice.

Ryan Gosling, in particular, underwhelms as a stunt man. Watch a Jackie Chan movie, also known for the stunts, and Chan looks terrified, he’s hanging on for dear life, he’s utterly horrified by what’s happening to him, he’s just coping desperately, making it up as he goes along. Gosling on the other hand, just looks focussed. Even when he’s apparently riding a piece of metal down a Sydney street, he never looks scared, just intense, as if he’s simply concentrating on all the steps he’s been taught.

The script is engaging enough, with quips and threats in the right place, but it never feels visceral. No one feels like they’re terrified they could die in the next seconds, no one looks like they’re falling in love. It’s all hip and remote, an arms length homage to an 80s television show, but never really committing to it.

I watched Argyle earlier, and regardless of it’s flaws, there were a lot of scenes where the cast and the action sequences committed and committed hard (and yeah, some terrible decisions and crappy action bits there too).

But the Fall Guy doesn’t.

Colt Seevers, despite barely surviving a career ending injury, his nerve breaking, and spending the last few years hiding out and parking cars, immediately jumps back into action. No hesitation, no second guessing. Physically, he’s tip top in every possible way, he doesn’t have to work to get it back. He never even worries that maybe if something goes wrong he’s done. Nope, it’s as if the first ten or fifteen minutes of the movie never happened to him. He’s just Colt Seevers (!) doing some Colt Seevering (!!!). There’s no sign of a human being in there, only a Ken doll.

Colt is a character who pretends to have emotions, but only when he isn’t navigating a complicated choreograph that feels worked out, and takes up all his attention.

That kind of goes for the rest of the cast — the love interest and upcoming director, the sleazy producer, the black buddy, the dissolute star, etc. They all kind of treat it as cartoons, going over the top sometime, but never really going deep.

It becomes a pantomime with no stakes, a scripted dance. Even the ‘real’ action bits come off as feeling like managed and choreographed stunts.

I take that back: There’s one sequence that felt genuine, it’s while Colt is fleeing for his life in a boat, and he’s hiding in the Marina and trying to talk to his girl on a phone with the bad guys searching. That’s the point where you think he’s in real trouble. But the rest? Nope. Colt Seevers ™ is a guy choreographed through life, executing pre-figured steps, without missing a beat, and looking like it.

I’ll confess, I barely remember the television series this is based on. Lee Majors starred as a stuntman with a side hustle as a private detective or bounty hunter or something. Somehow, between stunt gigs, he’d get into these baroque TV plots, where he’d use his stuntman skills to jump a car over a water buffalo to catch the bad guy.

In that sense, Fall Guy the movie apes Fall Guy the TV series. The stunts, the livelihood, the actual movie they’re shooting, comes second to a semi-elaborate, badly contrived plot involving a missing star, a missing dead body and a plot to frame Colt for a movie he didn’t commit, and which he needs to defeat in an equally badly contrived manner. In a sense, it’s a bigger version of a typical episode, except that the ‘framed for murder’ plot leaves Colt without any agency at all, aimlessly wandering through the shambles of a script.

It’s one of those pretend-intricate stories you expect from a twenty-something old scriptwriter with no life experience. Think about any part of it for five seconds and the whole thing collapses. Really, when you have plot holes the aforementioned water buffalo could walk through, you have a problem.

That’s the problem — it’s just going through the motions, but at no point does it seem to actually care. It’s executing a complex series of dance steps, but it never actually dances. It follows a formula, but never comes to life. You get the sense no one cared making this, no one felt anything at all. Everyone went in, they got their bits of script, instructions, did the set ups, the make-up the pyro, and then went home for the day.

So I suppose the question is, why should we feel anything for a movie, when the people who made it clearly didn’t? And if they didn’t feel anything, and we didn’t feel anything, why bother going to see it?