More post-content garbage from Hollywood with ‘The Fall Guy’, another big, bland, stupid studio movie with no substance or style

He’s not Ken: Ryan Gosling in ‘The Fall Guy’.

THE FALL GUY * (126 minutes) M
The advent of The Fall Guy – the latest showreel of cinematic garbage to drop off the end of the studio assembly line and straight into the multiplex – raises an important question: why is the acting so bad?

Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt are at the centre of a shambles that is a hot contender for worst mass-market film of the year – alongside Ghostbusters, Challengers and Monkey Man.

In what is touted as an action comedy, Gosling plays movie stuntman Colt Seavers (the Lee Majors character from the 1980s TV series) who returns after a back injury to work on a sci-fi film for director Jody Moreno, played with ear-scratching sibilance by Blunt.

They once had a fling and now question whether they should rekindle, even though no romantic spark between them appears to have survived.

When the star of the film-within-the-film Tom Ryder (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) goes missing, Seavers is tasked by the producer (Hannah Waddingham) to go find him. Their movie will shut down otherwise, even though Moreno seems unperturbed by the prospect of her first movie being cancelled or, indeed, that her star has suddenly gone missing. It’s unclear whether she knows or just doesn’t care. She’d rather go to karaoke.

The plot that subsequently unfurls is a disjointed scribble involving many predictable twists in a narrative that makes almost no sense, boasting so many story holes you could use it to strain pasta.

It’s one thing to suspend disbelief to enjoy a lightweight, inconsequential slice of escapism, but like so many big, bad movies The Fall Guy demands that you suspend your intelligence.

Even loud action fluff needs to have a minimal degree of coherence, yet here we have another $150 million studio film that appears to be based on a story written in crayon.

Leave your brain at the door and your spinal column will still balk at how stupid and lazy the film is. So much for the art of storytelling.

And Lord help us, the acting in The Fall Guy is absolutely terrible.

Emily Blunt registers what is easily the worst turn of her career, with no shading or nuance in what is a resolutely flat, monotonal, high-volume performance.

Gosling is full of smarm, his flair for comedy – The Nice Guys; The Big Short; Barbie – deserting him as he flails about like Ken after a charm lobotomy.

There’s lots of shouting but no chemistry between the two as they deliver reams of truly awful dialogue in spluttered gushes made up of half-sentences and over-lapping exchanges.

We see this in a lot of films, presumably because it has a naturalistic, improvised feel. No, it’s just discordant and sloppy. Movie God, please make it stop.

The romance is unconvincing, the comedy forced, with this film committing the common crime of mistaking meta-references – where films/TV shows/etc refer to themselves – for wit.

It’s a tough thing to pull off and when done well (Seinfeld; Curb Your Enthusiasm; Episodes) it can produce comedy gold. Nothing like that here.

Example: one split-screen scene features Seavers and Moreno discussing whether they should use split screen in their movie. Har har. It’s meant to be clever but it’s positively excruciating.

So, too, the bullhorn scene where they deconstruct their relationship in front of the crew. As for Gosling’s joke about exposition, it’s almost enough to make you heave.

The direction is shocking, with David Leitch bringing no cadence, rhythm or style to the piece.

And though Leitch has directed some super action films – John Wick; Hobbs & Shaw; Nobody; Violent Night; the underrated Atomic Blonde) – the action here is largely rote and unimpressive.

There’s plenty of the usual vehicle tossing, boat chasing, fireballs and close-quarters fighting, yet the thing looks like a demolition derby edited with a blender. The action is too preoccupied with frame-filling scale rather than tight, memorable set-pieces. The sequence on the Sydney Harbour Bridge is, for all its heft, quite ho-hum.

The film supposedly boasts the use of practical stunts over digital effects, yet much of it is obscured by all the jagged cutting, with bland camera coverage making some of the film’s “big” stunts look unconvincing.

The film’s action ethos should have taken its cue from Tom Cruise and his Mission Impossible work or, even better, from the great action-comedy films of Hal Needham and Burt Reynolds, both of whom are probably watching The Fall Guy in Heaven, palms planted on their foreheads.

You don’t need to be a genius to predict the film will make a motza at the multiplex across its opening weekend, as it’s designed to. So, all hail the umpteenth film built on marketing, hype and star power to draw the crowds in quickly.

It also doesn’t take a genius to realize how there are now at least two generations of filmgoers who have grown up with big-budget, post-content Hollywood mulch where spectacle sidelines story, and so are conditioned to swallow whole films that offer visual flash, loud noise and big stars over anything resembling substance or even logical storytelling.

The Fall Guy proves once again that only in Hollywood can a studio spend $150 million (or more) on a film you struggle to remember five minutes after you’ve hit the exit.

And, again, what’s with the length? Two hours for this crud? Here’s a freakish idea: at 100 minutes the film would have been a tighter, better film, satisfying rather than maddening.

All these inordinate running times suggest either that screen stories are not being properly refined before production or that the accepted byword for big-scale movie making right now is tedium. Exhaust the audience with a prolonged sensory assault and they’ll feel satisfied.

As for the film being made with Australian locations, facilities and tax dollars, that’s no cause for celebration. You see all the Australian signage in the end credits and you just sigh.

Really, are we supposed to take pride in the Sydney Opera House being used as the backdrop for some bloated, empty-headed piece of Hollywood dross?

Not likely.