MOVIES

A Crowd-Pleasing Love Letter To Stuntmen

In the ’80s television series of the same name, Lee Majors plays Colt Seavers, a Hollywood stuntman who moonlights as a bounty hunter, creating an excuse for him to have episodic adventures every week using his skills from the set in action. But Ryan Gosling’s Seavers holds no such side gig, so the film takes a drastic approach to getting similar results absent the efficacy of such a simple premise. “The Fall Guy” is first and foremost a love story, that then must do somersaults to necessitate the requisite amount of action and thrills. 

Seavers, a professional stunt double, and his frequent co-worker, a camera operator named Jody Moreno (Emily Blunt), fall for one another on set, sneaking into trailers for discreet smooches between takes. But he suffers a serious injury doing a difficult stunt and shuts her out of his life during his recovery. When he’s asked to return from his self-imposed retirement because Jody wants his help on her first outing as a director, a sci-fi western called “Metalstorm,” he sees this as the perfect opportunity to win her back. But when he arrives on set in Australia, he discovers he was lied to by the film’s producer Gail (Hannah Waddingham), and that Jody had no idea he was coming — nor does she want him there. Gail has brought Seavers in to use his stuntman mojo to find the film’s missing star Tom Ryder (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), a man he has doubled for countless times and knows intimately. But, predictably, all is not as it seems, and this film takes a more literal interpretation of the show’s original title to get through its many twists and turns. 

Initially, this is a problem. David Leitch and screenwriter Drew Pearce have a story that is needlessly convoluted and denser than a film this airy ought to be. “The Fall Guy” aims to be several different films at once; Pearce is clearly channeling his “Iron Man 3” collaborator Shane Black in penning a cheeky and edgy send-up of action movie tropes and the movie business itself. But he’s also writing a touching — albeit if criminally self-aware — romantic comedy between two stars with remarkable chemistry. Within that, Leitch is also trying to stage a rollicking action picture with well-orchestrated set pieces that each need their own room to breathe for effective setup and execution. 

The plot that stitches it all together has more than its fair share of issues. Jokes don’t always land as well as the punches in the fight scenes; the lazy references to other movies often feel like placeholders someone forgot to take out later; and the metacommentary works best as a soupçon and not a buffet. Having characters on screen talk about how contrived something is doesn’t make it any less contrived.

But there is a point where, against all odds, these disparate elements coalesce enough for the greater whole to shine, regardless of its many weak points. It comes when the love story depicted on-screen dovetails with the love story happening off-screen, the one between all the stunt people making this film and all the ones whose shoulders they’re currently standing on.

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