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FilmWatch Weekly: ‘The Fall Guy’ is Dumb, Disposable Fun, plus Locally Made ‘New Life’ and the Life of Anita Pallenberg

Also this week: "Free Time," "Golden Years," sci-fi animation "Mars Express," and more.


Ryan Gosling is Colt Seavers in “The Fall Guy,” directed by David Leitch

Judging, at least, from the joint appearances of stars Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt on the film’s press junket, the Oscars telecast, and Saturday Night Live, it sure looks as if the folks who made The Fall Guy had a whole lot of fun making it. However, that’s no guarantee that an audience will enjoy the resulting on-screen antics—see The Cannonball Run, 1941, Grown Ups, or Ocean’s Twelve for examples of the contrary—or don’t. (Actually, any of Adam Sandler’s vacations paid for by Netflix fit the bill). In this case, director David Leitch’s tribute to stunt performers, inspired by the cheesy Lee Majors TV series that ran from 1981 to 1986, serves up enough disposable, dumb fun to make it worth a trip to a multiplex, even if it coasts on its leads’ undeniable chemistry far more than would ordinarily be healthy.

Colt Seavers (Gosling) makes his living getting shot, set on fire, rolling cars, and plummeting from great heights for the sake of all you ticket-buying slobs. He’s the preferred double for major star (and major asshole) Tom Ryder (Aaron Taylor-Johnson)—no relation to Tom Cruise, mind you—and the preferred smooches partner for camera operator Jodie Moreno (Blunt). All’s right in the world, until one of those patented plummets goes awry, busting up Seaver’s spine and sending him into a spiral of self-pity that culminates, eighteen months later, in a lonely existence working as a valet in Los Angeles. When big-time producer Gail Meyer (Hannah Waddington)—no relation to Gale Ann Hurd, mind you—rings him up to tell him that Jodie, elevated in that short span to the director’s chair of the big-budget spectacle Metalstorm—no relation to the 1983 cult classic Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn, mind youhas requested his services on set in Australia, Colt seizes the chance to get his masochistic mojo back and mend fences with his alienated true love.

Spoiler alert: He does both. En route to that foreseeable outcome, he’s, among other things, sent on the trail of Ryder, the film’s missing leading man; framed for the murder of a fellow professional punching bag; and drugged into a unicorn-hallucinating stupor. During slow moments, Jodie torments him about the way he abandoned her following his accident, in scenes that test just how far intentionally obvious dialogue can be redeemed by tongue-in-cheek delivery. The blatant, broad telegraphing of their relationship is echoed by the general sloppiness of the plotting. (For one thing, this movie seems to take place in a world without cloud storage, as not one but two major plot points hinge on preserving data saved in a physical format which would, in normal reality, have been automatically uploaded to some server somewhere and therefore retrievable even if the cell phone or hard drive in question were destroyed. But I digress.)

Of course, none of this matters much when the main attractions are beautiful people and vehicular carnage. Gosling certainly brings a touch of Kenergy to Colt, once again making the case that a firm jawline, tousled locks, and chiseled abs pair best with a self-effacing, even buffoonish demeanor and a cockeyed grin. Blunt doesn’t get nearly as much opportunity to shine, but she’s a worthy foil, and it’s a relief that the 2024 version of The Fall Guy gives its female co-lead more to do than go undercover in a bikini à la Heather Thomas. Taylor-Johnson, much like Miles Teller, seems to be making a career out of playing, without much stretching, insufferable jerks afflicted with an oily form of toxic masculinity. And Waddingham, nearly unrecognizable under a dark mane, also seems typecast as the brassy, imposing bitch who gets things done. (Stephanie Hsu, Oscar nominated for Everything Everywhere All at Once, has a mostly thankless role as a production assistant, and Winston Duke makes a decent squire for Colt as the film’s stunt supervisor.)

The stunt work, it shouldn’t need to be said, ranges from solid to spectacular, and there’s a nice reel of behind-the-scenes snippets that run alongside the end credits, the sort of thing you used to see at the end of a Jackie Chan flick. (There’s also a stinger following those snippets that nostalgic Millennials will want to stick around for.) If you don’t already know the record for most car rolls in one stunt, you will after this movie. At several points, as cars, boats, helicopters, and more careened across land, sea, and air in harrowing and unnatural ways, I was reminded of the cheerfully destructive action flicks from Down Under in the 1970s and ’80s, Ozploitation epics that took advantage of Australia’s wide-open spaces and surfeit of adrenaline junkies and culminated in George Miller’s The Road Warrior. (All for a fraction of The Fall Guy’s budget and without digital enhancement.)

Miller, of course, took that tradition and metastasized it into Mad Max: Fury Road and it’s rapidly approaching sequel, Furiosa. For all of the expertise and dedication that director Leitch (a former stunt performer himself) justly celebrates here, it almost feels a little old-fashioned compared to the graduate-level daredevilry that will follow The Fall Guy onto theater screens in just a few short weeks. (Opens May 2, everywhere)


Free Time: I wrote about this dorkily charming indie comedy when it played at last falls’ Eastern Oregon Film Festival. It follows an office worker who quits his job in order to enjoy his relative youth while it lasts, which turns out to be more of a challenge than expected, largely because he doesn’t know what to do with himself. Colin Burgess gives a funny, deadpan performance in director Ryan Martin Brown’s micro-budgeted ode to twentysomething ennui. (Living Room Theaters)


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Golden Years: After his retirement, a married couple embarks on a cruise that she hopes will allow them to recapture some of their lost romance. But he invites the widower of her recently deceased good friend along for the ride, leading to comedic tensions, suspicions, and misunderstandings. Hollywood would likely have made this setup into a dopey, infantilizing anti-showcase for the likes of Lily Tomlin and Robert De Niro, but German director Barbara Kulcsar breathes real life into her characters, allowing them to inhabit complex, but still funny, dynamics that don’t assume an easy answer to the challenges of growing old without growing up. (Living Room Theaters)

Jeanne du Barry: Like other disgraced Hollywood exiles, Johnny Depp has somehow found himself in France. His first screen role since 2020’s Minamata sees Depp donning powder and pompadour to play King Louis XV, the monarch whose court was fascinated and appalled by his titular mistress (played by writer-director Maïwenn), who rose from obscurity to become an influential courtesan before losing her head to the guillotine. Prior to this, she’s been played by Dolores Del Rio, Lucille Ball, and Asia Argento, so who knows what this depiction will be like. (Regal Fox Tower and other locations, through Monday)

Mars Express: A human private eye and her synthetic partner try to track down a runaway android and solve a murder in this French animated feature set in the 23rd century that clearly owes a debt to Blade Runner. (Lloyd Center, Eastport Plaza, Clackamas Town Center, Bridgeport Village, and more)

The Roundup: Punishment: The fourth installment in a popular South Korean action series finds Detective Ma Seok-do (Ma Dong-seok) pursuing cybercriminals linked to the Philippine gambling underworld. (Lloyd Center, Eastport Plaza)

Tarot: A group of teenagers mess around with a cursed Tarot deck and before you can say The Hanged Man they pay the price. First it was Ouija boards, now it’s Tarot cards. Wake me up when we get to a cheesy horror flick based on the I Ching. (multiple locations)


Catching Fire: The Story of Anita Pallenberg: Following the death of the celebrated model/actress/muse in 2017, her unpublished memoir was discovered among her possessions. Using those words, spoken by Scarlett Johansson, as its backbone, this otherwise straightforward documentary follows Pallenberg from her Italian childhood to her time in New York among Warhol et al. to her roles in Barbarella and Performance to her famous relationships with Rolling Stones Brian Jones (disastrously) and Keith Richards (less so). Pallenberg and Richards’ children provide intimate testimony to their experiences growing up in one of the more decadent and hedonistic environments of the 1970s, one which they (and their parents) somehow survived. Ultimately, this is a portrait of a woman who ended up having to reinvent herself once the rock and roll and the heroin and the youth were in the rearview mirror, and who did so with the same confidence and elan she brought to just about everything else she did. (Kiggins Theater, Saturday & Sunday)

Protect What You Love: New Conservation Films: The Portland EcoFilm Festival presents this collection of green screenings that includes films with titles populated by wolverines, salmon, toads, and, of course, pangolins. (Friday, Hollywood)


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New Life: This sleek, well-paced thriller from director John Rosman was shot in Portland, Enterprise, and the Wallowas, and gets its Oregon premiere here. A young woman (soap opera veteran Hayley Erin, making a solid lead debut) is being pursued, for unclear reasons, by an embittered bounty hunter of some sort (Sonya Walger, Penny from Lost!) across the wilderness as she tries to cross the Canadian border. Pursuer and pursued turn out to have more in common than you’d guess, and in ways that subvert genre cliches. Cast and crew members will be in attendance. (Saturday, Hollywood)

Alfons Zitterbacke: Class Trip Chaos: The Portland German Film Festival presents this family comedy about a bunch of zany teens on a class trip that, presumably, descends into chaos. Sequel to Alfons Zitterbacke: Chaos in Zurich. (Sunday, Clinton Street)

The Best of the Ottawa International Animation Festival: Highlights from one of the world’s most prominent and venerable animation festivals. Presented by the Portland chapter of the International Animated Film Society. (Wednesday, Cinema 21)

Copa 71: The Portland QDoc Festival presents this well-received documentary about a nearly forgotten event in sports history: the 1971 so-called Women’s World Cup, held in Mexico City and featuring squads from six nations squaring off in front of enormous, enthusiastic crowds. Met with derision at the time by the sport’s powers that be, it remains an inspiring forerunner to the explosion in women’s soccer in recent decades. (Wednesday, Cinema 21)

The Night Visitors: The Portland EcoFilm Festival presents the winner of this year’s Best Feature Film award, a visually stunning exploration of the world of moths. Bonus: a short film about cuttlefish! (Wednesday, Hollywood)

Eno: This cinematic portrait of the visionary musician and producer is designed to produce a unique experience on each viewing, employing a “generative software system” to draw on hundreds of hours of interviews and stitch together a different sequence in each iteration. A suitably avant-garde idea for a guy who was always ahead of his time, but also an AI threat to film editors everywhere? Director Gary Hutswit (I Am Trying to Break Your Heart) and other guests will participate in a post-film Q&A. (Tomorrow Theater)


The Beast: Metro Cinemas, Eugene


WESTAF Shoebox Arts

Challengers: Darkside Cinema, Corvallis

Hundreds of Beavers: Metro Cinemas, Eugene; Clinton Street Theater, Portland (Friday only)

The People’s Joker: Tomorrow Theater (Friday only, with pre-show comedy set)

We Grown Now: Darkside Cinema, Corvallis

Wicked Little Letters: Eugene Art House



  • Cowboy Bebop: The Movie [2003] (Academy, through Thursday)
  • Dune [1984] (Hollywood, through Sunday)
  • Ghost World [2001] (Academy, through Thursday)
  • Road House [1989] (Academy, through Thursday)
  • Spaceballs [1987] (Kiggins, also Sunday)
  • Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace (multiple locations, through Thursday)
  • Trancers II: The Return of Jack Deth [1991] (Cinemagic, on VHS)

Saturday (May the 4th, you know)


All Classical Radio James Depreist

  • E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial [1982] (Cinema 21)
  • Sorry, Wrong Number [1948] (Hollywood, also Sunday)
  • Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope [1977] (Kiggins)


  • Destroy All Monsters! [1968] (Tomorrow Theater)
  • Godzilla [1954] (Tomorrow Theater)
  • Steel Magnolias [1989] (Eugene Art House)
  • The Witch [2016] (Clinton Street, part of Pagan May)


  • Fallen Angels [1995] (Cinemagic, also Wednesday)
  • In the Mood for Love [2000] (Cinemagic, also Tuesday & Thursday)
  • One from the Heart: Reprise [1982] (Hollywood, new 4K restoration)
  • Wings of Desire [1987] (Hollywood, through Thursday)


  • The Chambermaid [2019] (Tin Pan Theater, Bend)
  • Happy Together [1997] (Cinemagic, also Wednesday)
  • Night of the Kickfighters [1989] (Hollywood, B-Movie Bingo)
  • Snowbeast [1977] (Darkside Cinema, Corvallis)


  • Curse of the Doll People [1961] (Clinton Street, presented by Church of Film)

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Photo Joe Cantrell

Marc Mohan moved to Portland from Wisconsin in 1991, and has been exploring and contributing to the city’s film culture almost ever since, as the manager of the landmark independent video store Trilogy, the owner of Portland’s first DVD-only rental spot, Video Vérité; and as a freelance film critic for The Oregonian for nearly twenty years. Once it became apparent that “newspaper film critic” was no longer a sustainable career option, he pursued a new path, enrolling in the Northwestern School of Law at Lewis & Clark College in the fall of 2017 and graduating cum laude in 2020 with a specialization in Intellectual Property. He now splits his time between his practice with Vérité Law Company and his continuing efforts to spread the word about great (and not-so-great) movies, which include a weekly column at Oregon ArtsWatch.


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