Hollywood's 'The Fall Guy': a tribute to Jackie Chan's action films
Published: May 14, 2024 09:45 PM
Promotional material of <em>The Fall Guy</em> Photo: Courtesy of Maoyan

Promotional material of The Fall Guy Photo: Courtesy of Maoyan

Following movie star Jackie Chan's tribute to stunt performers with Ride On in 2023, Universal Pictures has geared up for its own tribute with the new film The Fall Guy, which intertwines a heartfelt romantic narrative with the action-packed world of stunts and is set to hit Chinese mainland cinemas on Friday.

Having attended the premiere of The Fall Guy, my primary takeaway is the evident influence of Jackie Chan's action movies, a sentiment echoed by director David Leitch during the post-screening discussion. He cited Chan's impact on his own career trajectory, particularly during his time working on The Matrix movies, in which Yuen Woo-ping, a renowned martial arts choreographer and film director from Hong Kong, China, provided invaluable assistance.

The plot of The Fall Guy revolves around stuntman Colt Seavers (Ryan Gosling), who, after a year-long hiatus due to a career-threatening injury, receives an offer from his ex-girlfriend, director Judy Moreno (Emily Blunt), to work on her latest film. Hoping to reignite both his career and their relationship, Colt soon finds himself entangled in a nefarious criminal scheme.

Directed by Leitch, himself a former stuntman, the film marks a departure from his previous blockbuster hits like Bullet Train, Deadpool 2, and Atomic Blonde, presenting his most distinctive work to date. Despite being unable to attend the premiere in person, both Leitch and his wife, producer Kelly McCormick, recorded a special interview for Chinese fans.

"This movie is really personal for me, because I have been a stunt performer for over 20 years," Leitch said in the recorded video.

Leitch acknowledges his admiration for icons like Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, and the Shaw Brothers, crediting Chan's evolution from stunt performer to director and prolific producer as particularly inspiring. Gosling's portrayal of Colt embodies the essence of Chan's classic characters, ordinary individuals who struggle against nefarious forces. Even the film's title logo, featuring a falling figure, drew inspiration from Chan's iconic clock tower scene in Project A.

Behind the heart-stopping action in The Fall Guy lies meticulous planning and execution, evident in Guinness World Record-breaking stunts like an eight-and-a-half car flip stunt, 69-meter car jump, 24-meter boat leap, and 46-meter high fall, achieved through the collaborative efforts of 87North Productions and dedicated stunt performers.

The film's action choreographer Sun Nuo, hailing from Beijing, not only spearheaded the film's action sequences but also endeavored to infuse Chinese martial arts culture into the international action genre, paying homage to legends like Chan and Jet Li. One standout moment involves Gosling's character fighting in a flowing robe, reminiscent of Li's iconic portrayal of Wong Fei-hung, a detail inspired by a suggestion from Sun during production.

The Fall Guy has received positive reviews, with media outlets like MTC awarding it a score of 73. The film has a CinemaScore rating of A-, a 7.3/10 on film platform IMDb and an 83 percent freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Gosling's portrayal adds a refreshing dimension, following his standout performance in 2023's Barbie. Paired with Emily Blunt's assertive director character, the duo ignites the screen with their chemistry, earning them the title of a "sweet bomb" by the filmmakers.

With a hefty budget of $130 million, The Fall Guy has pinned its hopes on the Chinese market, strategically releasing close to the May 20, or "520" period, - "520" sounds like "I love you" in Chinese - to attract audiences seeking both thrilling action and heartfelt romance.

Leitch said the film serves as a love letter to the unsung heroes of the stunt world, inviting audiences to appreciate the bravery and skill behind each adrenaline-pumping sequence.

Pre-sales for the film have already started on Chinese ticketing platforms. However, whether the film will perform well in the Chinese mainland market remains to be seen.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.