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Trigger warning: What ensues is a humor piece!
Sorry, everyone—I know it’s been a minute since I’ve cranked out a film review. I ran into a wee spot of legal trouble after, well, let’s call it a “highway misunderstanding.” I was in a hurry to get up to the Squanawanagunks for a quick free-handing session a couple weekends back (Gold’s Gym was closed for New Year’s Day—WTF, bro?! The Rexter was peaking) and traffic was backed up on the 208. Apparently, it’s “illegal” to Monster Truck–crush a Prius in your lifted Dodge Ram just to get to your exit, but my lawyer has advised me not to say too much about all that while I’m cooling my heels in the clink.
Anyway, have had a bit of downtime, which has given me space to focus on my quads, calves, and triceps—just ‘cause you’re serving lunch to other inmates doesn’t mean you need to have “lunch-lady arms,” ammirite? I’m swole AF now thanks to prison iron, butt-smuggled steroids, and toilet wine—a killer recovery drink, it turns out. I’m not climbing as much as I’d like since they kind of discourage that around here (I guess not all walls are meant for climbing, LOL), but I handcrafted some Crumper Blox in the woodshop and I do inverted floor clings in my cell to keep my free-handing strength up. Missing those long days at the Middle Gunks when I’d rappel in, huck the rope into the trees, and up-lead a 5.15 overcut on Stroppers and Peetons.
The hours can be long around these parts, so I was maximally stoked—like 5 Hour Energy–level stoked—the other day when a climbing movie, Fall, came on in the dayroom. At first, not everyone was keen to watch a flick about two climber chicks who get stuck up on a TV tower, but after my boys Dozer, Throat-Ripper, and “Homicide” Hank had a word with them, the movie stayed on and we all settled in for a nice, copacetic watch party.
Let me tell you, even though the only climbers in this movie are a couple of unchaperoned climber ladies (SRSLY, WTF? Is this what happens when screenwriters get degrees from Sarah Lawrence?), it’s gripping from start to finish. In fact, it’s probably even more realistic than Cliffhanger or Vertical Limit, the gold standards in climbing cinema. We’ll begin with Fall’s opening scene: Our hero, Danyal, who must be Canadian since he’s wearing long johns and shorts and spells his name like a fucking weirdo, is leading his wife, Becky, on a first-assent simul-grïppë with paddle dynamos, butterflied Jamalots RURPed into sprockets, and slope-ramps on outdoor basalt. Sometimes it looks like they’re climbing high up in Pine Creek Canyon in the Sierras and sometimes it looks like they’re on the Planet of the Apes Wall in Malibu Creek Canyon, but nevermind all that. We’ll leave the nitpicking to the Mountain Project eggheads!
Even though he’s not as swole as a climber should be, Danyal still vibes solid alpha energy; he knows how to look after a lady. When Becky hesitates on a cross-plunge between limestoned crevasses, he tells her, “You’ve done way scarier than this!”, holds his hand out like a gentleman, then says —after she leaps—“That’s my girl!” and gives her a nice, manly kiss to assert his ownership. Hey, a bro after my own heart (Danyal, bro, I’d say, “Let’s hang,” but you’re dead, bro—LOL RIP), and, ladies, if you don’t like that kind of “macho talk” then swipe left. You’re never gonna #metoo the Rexanator.
Things get complicated when Shiloh Hunter, Becky’s bestie, side-hands in while wearing a harness but no rope—proper climbing technique, in other words. “Worry about your ropes, bitches,” she yells over to them by way of encouragement. “I’m fine.” Then, something terrible happens.
Not to give too much away, but basically a pigeon flies out of a hole, hits Danyal in the face, he lets go of the cliff like a spaghetti-armed weak-ass, and Becky has to unzip a fully weighted safety line from her belay clamp (which is totally possible; I’ve done it) so Danyal can swing in and grab the mountain, which he fails to do before his bro-tection blows, sending him plummeting six thousand feet, the distance of 17 El Crapitans. OK, maybe I gave too much away? Well, whatever…Danyal gets deleted like a “creepy little simp” who’s sent a few too many “chossy DMs” to a certain female pro climber—not that I’d know anything about this—and we catch up 51 weeks later with Becky, who’s still all maudlin and has Danyal’s ashes sitting in an unopened package, kinda like my ex when I’d ask her to “Take out the goddamned trash” and then it just sat there rotting in the pantry.
Re-enter Hunter, who suggests Becky regain her zest for life by rejoining her on a climb of the B-67 TV Tower out in the Mojave Desert, at 2,000 feet the fourth-tallest structure in the United States. Hunter is a popular YouTuber who goes by the handle “Danger D.” She is what Becky calls “natural-born clickbait,” wears a push-up bra special for this excursion because “T–s get clicks” (hollah!), and keeps calling everything “sick.” The ladies park their car, put their harnesses on for the approach (good call!), and walk out to the tower. Roped together with 50 feet of stretch-cord that they never clip to anything—again, proper technique—they simul-hand free solo the summit. But then it all goes off the rails, as in, literally, the ladder and railings peel off the tower thanks to loose, janky nuts and bolts: welcome to Joe Biden’s America. This leaves them stranded on a tiny platform without a man in sight to save them!
This presents a real dilemma, and I don’t want to give too much away. Suffice it to say that these chicas somehow need to get the message out to the world that they’re stuck, but because the tower has some libtard science gizmo that blocks cell service, they can’t. What ensues is an edge-of-your-seat ride of whompers, pröösiks, hand-wenching, vulture attacks, free-fall and free-ball repels, one-armed max hangs, and finally, an epic trundle for the ages. I could barely tear my eyes away, even when “Homicide” Hank started beating the life out of another prisoner with a coke can wrapped in a pillowcase during a dispute over the remote control.
My one main criticism, other than the ladies not having a man along to go first and staple the safety lines, is the scene in which Becky tells her dad, played by Negan from The Walking Dead, to “Fuck off.” Now, I don’t know about you, but the last time my pig-faced little ingrate of a daughter told me that, I made her put on a duncecap and go sit in the corner, facing the wall. That was awhile ago now—right before I got arrested, actually. Shit, I hope she’s not still sitting there. Maybe someone should go check on her. Four stars.
When he’s not busy writing about the latest trends in extreme sporting, Rex Dangerman, sports and fitness editor at New York Extreme Men’s Fitness Magazine, can be found surfing the Jersey Shore, ultra-running in Central Park, and free-handing the Shawangunks.