THE FALL GUY. Ryan Gosling Show

Where the hastily written plot falls short, the actors – especially one of them – carry the story of “The Fall Guy” forward.

Jan Brzozowski

2 May 2024

Before becoming a director, David Leitch spent nearly twenty years seriously involved in stunt work. He doubled for Brad Pitt in Fight Club, took hits for Matt Damon in The Bourne Ultimatum, and played Jean-Claude Van Damme in The Order. However, his ambitions were greater – so he slowly climbed the Hollywood ladder, first working as a stunt coordinator and then as a second unit director. The breakthrough in the American’s career turned out to be a small film costing less than $30 million, about a hitman seeking revenge on gangsters for stealing his car and killing his dog – of course, I’m talking about the first John Wick, which Leitch co-directed with his helmet-wearing buddy Chad Stahelski. Exactly 10 years have passed since then. Like Stahelski, Leitch is now a recognized action film director. He collaborates with the biggest brands – having on his resume the likes of Deadpool 2’s sequel and the Fast & Furious spin-off. Similar collaborations allow him to earn for slightly more personal projects: like The Fall Guy.

Contrary to appearances, however, The Fall Guy is not an autobiographical story – although I’m convinced that Leitch saturated the plot with a hint of his own experiences. The main character is a certain Colt Seavers (Ryan Gosling). A decent professional who regularly doubles for one of the biggest action movie stars – Tom Ryder (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). When we admire an impressive opening master shot, everything in Colt’s life is going well. His romance with cinematographer Jody (Emily Blunt) is blossoming, the work he’s been doing for years still brings him satisfaction, and a couple’s beach vacation is on the horizon. And then, of course, an accident happens – pregnant with consequences. Colt hides away because of it and quits his stuntman job. He only decides to return when Jody’s debut film is in danger.

Fall Guy

The Fall Guy is simultaneously a sharp satire and – popular lately – a love letter to cinema. The satire targets greedy producers and narcissistic stars, while the love letter is addressed to stuntmen. Although Leitch presents his profession with genuine tenderness, there are also a few bitter thoughts here. The most important one concerns the anonymity characteristic of stunt work. We don’t know the names of the people risking their health and lives in the most spectacular scenes of our favorite movies. Often, we don’t even know their faces because they either remain unseen or are replaced in post-production by actors’ generated faces. “You’re just a stuntman,” the main character hears repeatedly, almost as an insult. Leitch turns this phrase upside down: he shows in his film the noble, even heroic dimension of a profession he once practiced. According to him, a good stuntman is someone who can put pride in his pocket and for the twenty-fourth time set himself on fire or get thrown against a wall. Without a word of complaint, but with a mandatory thumbs up. Even despite the increasing pain with each take.

All of this is hidden beneath the surface of The Fall Guy. On the surface, as one of the characters describes it, is “sexy bacon.” Numerous intertextual references, embedding the fictional superproduction set, which is a crossover between Mad Max and Dune. DJ Khaled, Phil Collins, and Taylor Swift on the soundtrack. Mind-blowing action scenes combined with romantic comedy convention – just like in Mr. & Mrs. Smith (Leitch worked as a stunt double for Pitt in the latter film). Where the hastily written plot falls short, the actors carry the story – especially one of them. You guessed it: The Fall Guy is essentially the Ryan Gosling Show. The American is currently in top form, as his comedic potential – discovered in Lars and the Real Girl, developed in Crazy, Stupid, Love, and brought to perfection in The Nice Guys – is finally being regularly utilized. The Fall Guy will be a real treat especially for all Ken fans: without context, one might think it’s a Gerwig film spin-off, where Gosling’s character lives in the real world, dedicates himself to a film industry career, and eventually falls in love with the offspring of the Oppenheimers.

Fall Guy

I remember a few months ago I was contemplating what categories I would like to see at the Oscars. The catalyst for these thoughts was simple and quite obvious: the Academy had just decided to include an award for best casting director. Very cool, but who else is missing? First and foremost, I thought of voice actors and extras. A moment later, I thought of stuntmen (maybe Tom Cruise would finally get an Oscar?). David Leitch clearly agrees with me because the issue of the Oscars is addressed in his film. If such an award were to actually exist, a strong contender to win it next year would be Logan Holladay, who doubles for Gosling in The Fall Guy. During the end credits, Leitch presents us with his achievements – including the most impressive one, ending with a Guinness World Record for the number of barrels jumped by a car during a crash scene. Framed by a certificate, Holladay received it just before a special premiere screening of The Fall Guy – straight from Ryan Gosling’s hands.

Death, or rather constant threat of death, is ingrained in the life of a stuntman permanently. Buster Keaton knew it, Tom Cruise knows it. Leitch is also aware of this – perhaps more than anyone else. Because it was on the set of his film in 2017 that a fatal accident occurred. Joi Harris, a stuntwoman doubling for Zazie Beetz in Deadpool 2, fell off a motorcycle during a chase scene. She died on the spot. The Fall Guy is dedicated precisely to people like her: professionals whose work – although burdened with unimaginable risk – remains insufficiently appreciated.

Janek Brzozowski

Jan Brzozowski

Permanently sleep-deprived, as he absorbs either westerns or new adventure cinema at night. A big fan of the acting skills of James Dean and Jimmy Stewart, and the beauty of Ryan Gosling and Elle Fanning. He is also interested in American and French literature, as well as soccer.

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