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a more than decent soap-opera with bits of uproarious 'making-movie' comedy
Fall Guy is advertised on the front of the recently released DVD as "a comedy from the director of Battle Royale". That last part is true, but it's not entirely a comedy. I was expecting that, and in the first fifteen minutes it is that, incredibly and with total personality-laden hilarity as a Japanese movie star, Ginshiro (Morio Kazama) is a prototypical ego-maniac who is furious that there's stalling on building a gigantic staircase for an action sequence and then proceeds to get drunk and complain about not having enough screaming fans. Up to this point it is a comedy... and then it suddenly starts to unfold deeper, and we meet the characters Konatsu (Keiko Matsuzaka), Ginshiro's presumed love interest and father of her unborn child, and Yasu (Mitsuru Kirata), a close friend and would-be low-level stuntman who may be the father of Konatsu's baby by "default", and it becomes a soap opera.
To say soap opera isn't really to decry it, as one might imagine 'soap opera' to be something already to be wary of. It isn't quite melodrama, though it edges it in some fiery scenes (my favorite was an explosive bit where Yasu rebels from this existential conundrum of doing a non-death-proof stunt down the stairs), and a lot of it surrounds taking care of an unborn baby, marrying someone who might not be the right one and a shady ex-lover who is obsessed with his scenes being cut from the current martial arts movie. So it's all stuff you could possibly catch on daytime TV. The difference is, thankfully, director Fukasaku casts his actors based on impressive personality, on lots of intense emotional power, and he interweaves the personal love story with an absorbing look at the making of Japanese martial arts movies; just watching Yasu in the montage of doing various stunts for 5 to 10 thousand Yen is funny but also a small love letter for the movies.
It's also topped off, I should add, with a climax that has been building for about half of the movie and pays off, incredibly, and is in a way a better climax than some of the rest of the movie deserves. In a way a director like Fukasaku, a seasoned veteran probably not too unlike the director character in the film directing the film within Fall Guy, is needed to imbue the screenplay with real dramatic force and a sense of how to slip in those wonderful bits of comedy. At the least, if you love Japanese cinema, it's worth watching once. At best, it's fun romantic pulp. 7.5/10
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