Time Until Next Intake:

The Fall Guy Review:  A Fun Movie But a Studio Exec’s Nightmare 

Ryan Gosling wearing sunglasses, looking at camera.
Canada’s own Ryan Gosling as the ‘unknown stuntman’ in the remake of the 80s hit TV series, The Fall Guy. Images courtesy of Universal Pictures.

T

The Fall Guy has all the ingredients for a runaway blockbuster: major star power (Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt), a successful director (David Leitch, who helmed Bullet Train and Atomic Blonde), a terrific soundtrack (with songs from Kiss, AC/DC, Journey, Taylor Swift and more), a script that perfectly blends drama, romance and humourand some jaw dropping stunts. The trailers and marketing campaign seemed spot on. It garnered favourable reviews from both audiences and critics, and I found it immensely enjoyableespecially Gosling’s performance.

Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt looking at each other in a scene from the movie The Fall Guy.
Gosling and Blunt’s on-screen chemistry is undeniable.

T

The movie underperformed, not achieving the projected $30-$40 million opening weekend in Canada and the United States that Universal Pictures expected. Instead, it grossed only $28.5 million. Some might wonder how that figure could possibly be a disappointment but with a production budget of $125 million plus marketing costs (estimated at around $100 million more), you start to see why studio execs may be sweating.

Become an Insider

T

The international market helped the studio recoup some of its money, the worldwide box office tally coming in just over $170 million. But to be considered a success these days a film must make at least double its budget back (some sources say it’s triple). 

The film is already available on digital to buy or rent, with an additional extended uncut version that adds 20 more minutes to the filmno doubt to help drive sales.    

Let’s do the deep dive on The Fall Guy and try to understand what may have gone wrong here.

Movie poster of the Fall Guy.
The Fall Guy released in May. Stars Gosling and Blunt seem to be having a blast.

T

Colt Seavers (Ryan Gosling) is living the dream. He works in Hollywood as a stuntman for Tom Ryder, the world’s biggest action star. Things are heating up with his dream girl, an ambitious camera operator named Jody (Emily Blunt). In fact, it’s going so well that he defines their relationship as “the kind of thing you can only really find in the movies.” What could possibly go wrong? 

Things go plenty wrong, in all sorts of ways. A failed stunt causes Colt to break his back, so he disappears from the movie business and falls out of Jody’s life. Now, 18 months later, he works valet at a trendy Mexican restaurant. The job has its perks: parking expensive cars and all you can eat burritos. But then he’s suddenly thrust back into action when Tom mysteriously disappears from a movie set in Sydney, Australia. Colt has been tasked with leading the search, something he wants no part of, but changes his mind when he finds out Jody has been promoted and is directing the movie. 

Shot of stunt, Ryan Gosling falling.
The Fall Guy is literally taking the fall, with consequences.

T

Things get dicey quickly. Set up to be the fall guy (see what I did there?) for a murder through deep-fake technology, Colt sticks around to clear his name and get his girl back. There is a real natural chemistry between Gosling and Blunt. There are so many funny interactions between the two of them I have no doubt I will be watching this movie again soon. In one clever scene, Colt and Jody unpack their past on a set in front of a hundred crew members using the science fiction script they’re shooting as a metaphor. We discover Jody doesn’t forgive easily; her response to his weak explanations on ghosting her is to keep doing retakes on the particular stunt they’re shooting, which requires Colt to be set on fire.  

The Fall Guy is based on the Lee Majors’ series of the same name that ran for five seasons in the eighties, but there are some differences. Lee’s Colt Seavers was a stuntman and in his spare time, a bounty hunter. Not so here. Ryan’s Colt Seavers is out of his element when it comes to dealing with real bad guys firing guns with real bullets (instead of blanks), although his stunt skills do help him to get out of some tricky situations.  

With the title The Fall Guy, one would expect plenty of stunts and the movie doesn’t disappoint: there’s stunts on land, in the sky, and under water. There’s lots of falling and shattered glass. The movie set a Guinness World Record for most cannon rolls (eight and a half to be exact, breaking the record previously held by the James Bond film Casino Royale).  

My favourite stunt is when Colt surfs across the Sydney Harbour Bridge using a piece of metal as his surfboard, attached precariously to a truck by a chain and shovel. During the scene, the truck and Colt exit the bridge and drive by a drunken Jody, who is singing the Phil Collin’s song “Against All Odds” in a karaoke bar because she thinks Colt has left her again. 

Ryan Gosling surfing down street.
Let’s go surfing now: the stunts in the movie are terrific, one set a new Guinness World Record.

T

Add it all up, including the subtle nods to the original Miami Vice TV series and the Six Million Dollar Man, there’s a lot to like about this movie (including fruit platters and a unicornnope, not kidding). My only complaintminor spoiler alert!would be that Tom (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is exactly the kind of two-dimensional, arrogant, vain villain we see in a lot of other movies. But again, this is no big deal because the movie works so very well on every other level, and Tom doesn’t really get a lot of screen time anyway.   

So why did movie-goers stay away? And why did this movie hold the number one spot in theatres for only one week? 

For starters, we need to consider that the wait time between a movie’s premiere in theatres and its release on digital has shortened dramatically in the last few years. This means movie goers can be much more selective about what they pay to see on the big screen. In this case, The Fall Guy premiered on May 3 and was released on digital less than three weeks later, on May 21.  

To be fair, the May 21 date had been pushed up due to the movie’s poor ticket sales, but for argument’s sake let’s say it was originally going to be released digitally at twelve weeks. When you consider the cost of a night out at the movies (transportation, tickets, snacks, maybe dinner and drinks after) and the risk of catching COVID in a theatre where large groups of people are gathering, it’s cheaper (and perhaps healthier) to wait a few months and watch at your leisure at home. Especially if it’s a movie that audiences are not in a rush to see and don’t feel must be viewed on a big screen with big sound, like say Dune and Dune 2 (see my review on the Dune films for more on that). 

The Fall Guy is also based on a series that premiered over forty years ago. No, you do not have to have seen the original Fall Guy series to understand the movie. However, the series does not have a cult following, like say The Hobbit movies, James Bond, Star Trek, or the Marvel superhero universe. No one was clamouring for a Fall Guy movie version. It might have been better to lose the Fall Guy name altogether and call this film something else. 

The original The Fall Guy starred Lee Majors (right) as Colt Seavers and Douglas Barr as his sidekick Howie Munson. Image courtesy of ABC.

T

The Fall Guy is far from the only movie that had high expectations but suffered from poor box office recently. Take Mission Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One. It too had good reviews, but had fallen to fourth place by its second weekend. It needed a $600 million worldwide box office just to break even, which it failed to docoming in at around $566 million. Things could have been worse, but Paramount received a hefty $71 million in insurance payouts because of COVID delays during production. 

When I read about the cost of movies versus actual box office, I’m starting to think that budgets need to be dramatically trimmed or studios need to do more with less dollarswhich I think is very possible with the rapid advancements we’re seeing in technology today.  

Lastly, I think it’s long overdue to start assessing what studios are paying in the way of salaries: often a movie star makes more on one film than most people make their entire lives. On top of that, some stars have performance-based bonuses that tie their pay to the movie’s box office success. It must be frustrating for producers and directors of Hollywood films to see a huge chunk of their budget disappear before a single scene is shot, because of these absurd amounts. Addressing these issues could have a positive impact on the film industry. A reasonable salary structure could also help address the existing gender pay gap between male and female movie stars. 

Ultimately what this may mean is that instead of making movies with budgets of $125 million, you make more of them for $80 million, with a better chance of being in the black at the end of the day. 

Ryan Gosling shown flying through air
The Fall Guy has comedy, romance and drama, and appeals to a wide audience. It cost $125 million to make.

 

This would be good news for the industry and audiences alike because films like The Fall Guy appeal to almost every demographic: there’s characters you care about, a well-crafted plot, terrific acting, hilarious dialogue and scenes, and some truly astonishing stunts. What’s not to like? Movies like The Fall Guy are just plain fun.  

Garry Murdock
Born in Montreal, Garry Murdock is the marketing copywriter for Toronto Film School. He got his start in television production at YTV, and then later worked as a promo producer and commercial director for a number of television networks. He was the supervising producer of Cineplex’s national in-theatre pre-show, providing creative direction and leadership on over 600 produced segments, and directed on-location interviews around the world with Hollywood celebrities such as Steven Spielberg, Tom Cruise, Ben Affleck, Chris Evans, Kermit, Miss Piggy and many more. He has a bachelor’s degree in Radio and Television Arts from Toronto Metropolitan University and a certificate in Digital Marketing Management from the University of Toronto.

 

Garry Murdock

Born in Montreal, Garry Murdock is the marketing copywriter for Toronto Film School. He got his start in television production at YTV, and then later worked as a promo producer and commercial director for a number of television networks. He was the supervising producer of Cineplex’s national in-theatre pre-show, providing creative direction and leadership on over 600 produced segments, and directed on-location interviews around the world with Hollywood celebrities such as Steven Spielberg, Tom Cruise, Ben Affleck, Chris Evans, Kermit, Miss Piggy and many more. He has a bachelor’s degree in Radio and Television Arts from Toronto Metropolitan University and a certificate in Digital Marketing Management from the University of Toronto.

Blogs

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga Review | Do We Need Another Hero? 

Toronto Film School’s marketing copywriter Garry Murdock reviews Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga, a story that did not need to be told.Read more