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Stuntman (2018) Review

Eddie Braun is a stuntman with over 250 credits to his name. They range from Twisted Sister’s video for “We’re Not Gonna Take It” to Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold, Army of Darkness and Rush Hour 3. The movie Stuntman, (not to be confused with Richard Rush’s The Stunt Man), opens with him performing one of them, an exploding car gag from the TV show The Player.

But apart from a few reminisces about working on The Fall Guy and doubling for Charlie Sheen, the film doesn’t spend much time on that. That’s because Braun was inspired to get into stunt work after watching legendary daredevil Evel Knievel jumping all manner of things on his motorcycle. So, as his career in the movies began to wind down, he decided to do the one thing the man who inspired him couldn’t, jump the Snake River Canyon.

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Stuntman documents Braun’s quest to make that jump. It’s a long and, at times frustrating journey and director Kurt Mattila (Bosko and the Rebirth of Tiki) does a good job of capturing it. Stuntman begins in 2013 with Braun deciding to do it the next year to mark the fortieth anniversary of the original attempt. It ended up taking until 2016 to make it happen, with several changes of plans to go with the delays.

And there is a lot to cover. There’s the rocket itself, designed and built by Scott Truax whose father NASA scientist Robert Truax designed the rocket Knievel used in his failed attempt at the jump. Correcting the flaw in that craft’s parachute system and vindicating his late father’s work is a personal matter to him. Which means using 1970s technology and equipment so it will be as close to the original as possible. There’s no carbon fiber or computer systems to give them an advantage.

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There’s the heartbreak of sponsor Fox TV pulling out days before the scheduled launch in 2014 and the scramble to find the money to finish the project. Something that happened with more than one network before it was over. In the end, Braun had to make the decision to put his own money into the project, risking not only his life but his life’s savings.

On the other side of the coin, there are scenes of Braun in a recording studio as Slash and Myles Kennedy record the version of Elton John’s “Rocket Man” that plays over the film’s end credits. And his elation at having Dwayne Johnson, who he’d worked with on Escape from Witch Mountain, sign on as executive producer for the coverage of the jump. Johnson also makes a brief appearance at the beginning of Stuntman to introduce the film, warn the kids at home not to try anything they see in it and plug his upcoming film Jungle Cruise, (not to be confused with Jungle Run).

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It helps that, unlike his idol who was by most accounts a world-class asshole, Braun comes off as a genuinely decent guy. He’s a man with a dream, not someone chasing fame. And in the end, he’s satisfied just to have the chance to attempt the jump, even if it isn’t broadcast live on network TV. That’s also why we feel bad for him when his attempts to fundraise fall through, and nervous as the final minutes count down before the jump.

While not the deep and penetrating type of documentary, Stuntman is a fun and enjoyable one. It’s the kind of feel good true story that’s made for a weekend afternoon.

Stuntman is currently available on Disney+, you can check their page for the film for more details.

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