[Film Review] The Stunt Man (1980)

The Stunt Man poster.jpg

Title: The Stunt Man
Year: 1980
Country: USA
Language: English
Genre: Action, Comedy, Drama
Director: Richard Rush
Screenwriter: Lawrence B. Marcus
adapted by Richard Rush from Paul Brodeur’s novel
Music: Dominic Frontiere
Cinematography: Mario Tosi
Steve Railsback
Peter O’Toole
Barbara Hershey
Allen Garfield
Alex Rocco
Sharon Farrell
Adam Roarke
Philip Bruns
Charles Bail
John Garwood
Rating: 6.1/10

The Stunt Man 1980.jpg

Maverick American filmmaker Richard Rush’s apparent career zenith, THE STUNT MAN, is a thrice Oscar nominee including BEST DIRECTOR AND BEST LEADING ACTOR for Mr. O’ Toole, although afterwards he has only directed one more feature movie, the Bruce Willis turkey, COLOR OF NIGHT (1994), a Golden Raspberry winner.

A veteran turned fugitive, Cameron (Railsback) fetches up in the set of an anti-War WWI movie shot by the pompous director Eli Cross (O’Toole), and inveigled by the latter to stay as a stunt man in exchange of Eli’s keeping his identify under wraps from the police. What follows is the clash between a young hardened cynic and a self-centered filmmaker who appears to be unscrupulous enough to make sure his camera never stops rolling when someone’s life in on the line. It is a sadomasochistic tug-of-war, exacerbating into Cameron’s paranoia of Eli intending to dispatch him in the movie’s final stunt, further complicated by Cameron’s involvement with the actress Nina Franklin (Hershey), who quite implausibly falls for Cameron’s jejune, rough-hew charm, tellingly, a miscast Railsback hams it up with his maniac, grating presence that decidedly pulls this reviewer off, as competent as Hershey, who can only haplessly brazens it out with adequate vim and vigor but her piercing judiciousness only pointedly belies that it is a mis-match affair shy of any credulity, and let’s just pretend that the awful warpaint she must endure in the elderly lady character doesn’t happen.

But there is always a gleaming O’Toole to munificently purveying his overbearing showboating for viewers to behold, eyes blood-shot, physically jaded but constantly in an agitated state of motion (whether he is in a chopper, on a crane or simply walking and talking hastily in his set), he dominates the scenery with his Shakespearean diction and an air of inviolable confidence, that salvages Rush’s movie from descending into a totally chaotic mess, but there is only that much a fine performance can do.

Carefully assembling the raw, post-production-free sequences of dangerous stunt work (the highlight belongs to a faux-on-the-fly jig dancing that bespeaks the magic of film and the daredevil characteristic of the job as a stunt man), at least, Rush has something to boast out of his haphazard orchestration of a gallimaufry of film industry satire, anti-war statement and an aggrieved young man’s ire and panic.

Oscar 1980 - The Stunt Man.jpg

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