‘The Fall Guy’ Review: Explosive Stunts, Dynamite Chemistry

Aaron Neuwirth reviews The Fall Guy, a fun summer action-comedy that updates the 80s TV series with blockbuster-level stunts, and a strong romantic pairing between Gosling and Blunt.
User Rating: 7

Sure, Marvel is missing out on kicking off the summer movie season for the first time since 2006, but The Fall Guy is the perfect substitute. For various behind-the-scenes reasons, this big-screen reboot of the 80s TV series from director David Leitch was moved from March to the summer frontlines of May, and it’s easy to see why. The film is an action flick and a romantic comedy. While one aspect outweighs the other, there’s no shortage of chemistry between the leads. With that said, there is a lot of action and explosions throughout, and with the added notion that this movie serves as a tribute to stunt performers, there’s a whole world of fun to be had, in addition to the film’s sly commentary on moviemaking.

Ryan Gosling is Colt Seavers, a Hollywood stunt performer who was once living the highlife by doubling for famous action star Tom Ryder (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and enjoying time with his girlfriend, camera operator Jody Moreno (Emily Blunt). Unfortunately, an accident sets him back, and he loses it all. 18 months later, however, Colt is given a chance to get back in the game when producer Gail Meyer (Hanna Waddingham) recruits her former favorite stuntman to work on Jody’s directorial debut, starring Tom. Problem is, Mr. Ryder has disappeared, which leads to Colt going on a mission to find Tom, which could, perhaps, lead to solving an even more serious mystery. More importantly for Colt, however, is rekindling his relationship with the once-scorned Jody.

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the fall guy

Having worked in stunts for many years, director David Leitch has carved out a successful enough career as an action filmmaker (co-founding 87North Productions in the process). Whether or not I’ve enjoyed his previous features (Atomic Blonde, Deadpool 2, Hobbs & Shaw, Bullet Train), I can easily say this is his best movie yet. Much of that comes down to the script by Drew Pearce, which I’ll get back to, but Leitch’s understanding of this world and nailing the tone this film needed helps this all come together so well. Having mentioned his background in stunts, that also means understanding the way film sets work, and for a film about making movies, The Fall Guy makes a lot of fun choices regarding the general chaos of on-location filmmaking while engaging in a storyline fit for an 80s TV series.

As far as the scripting goes, Pearce’s writing in this film deserves a lot of credit for how clever it is. It’s not just about the aforementioned self-awareness that comes from poking fun at how Hollywood movies get made. There’s also the bantering, the general logic on display, and the choices for how to weave action into this story, let alone how to call itself out on the various tricks up its sleeves without going too broad in its attempts at humor or exposition dumping. One sequence features an elaborate water-based stunt that was name-checked maybe 45 minutes earlier. The film wisely knows how to simply show the audience something without having to expressly state what just happened, let alone lean into making fun of how unbelievable anything is, inadvertently lowering the stakes in the process.

the fall guy

Naturally, a chief concern is the leads of this whole endeavor, and Gosling and Blunt make for an exciting pair. Gosling, who has been riding high off the comedy chops he’s shown off in the past and elevated them to the stratosphere for all things Barbierelated, as far as the Oscars and audiences were concerned, is well-suited for Colt Seavers. Here’s a guy whose confidence has been slightly shaken, leaving him with a chip on his shoulder while still possessing the sort of laid-back charm anyone would have if their profession involved them being set on fire and thrown into walls simultaneously and repeatedly.

Not to be outdone, while Blunt’s Jody is not getting into car chases on the streets of Sydney, Australia, or jumping off buildings, she isn’t pushed into the background or forced to play a damsel either. She shares plenty of screen time with Gosling, and the two are very fun together. Additionally, there is a lot of effort to build plenty of funny scenes around Jody trying to keep this whole film production together, let alone ward off the egos of those around her. Blunt is even given a few scenes that place her around the action and find her in feisty positions when matched against Gosling.

the fall guy

The other players are having a great time in this, too. Aaron Taylor-Johnson continues to show how much of a joy he is playing wacky supporting characters, something the (unsubstantiated) Bond rumors would put an end to. As Tom, there’s a level of arrogance on display that goes over the top in the right ways to make his ne’er-do-well movie star frequently amusing. Speaking of over-the-top, it must be an in-joke to have Waddingham not only play a stereotypical bloodthirsty producer (she’s all about the bottom line) but also sport a ridiculous wig that assures us how much this film loves the 80s despite being set in modern times.

I wish the film had more for Winston Duke’s stunt coordinator character, Dan Tucker, to do, as his friendship with Colt was quite enjoyable, including their way of quoting movies at each other for the other to guess. It’s among the few quibbles I had with this film, along with feeling a little too long for its own good. A tighter story or more work on the supporting players (and less crime conspiracy) could have helped push The Fall Guy over the top and make it an ideal summer favorite. As it stands, these are small drops in a large bucket of entertainment.

the fall guy

Charmingly, the film’s action doesn’t stop before the credits. There’s an inside look at the stunts playing alongside the names on screen (not unlike a Jackie Chan film). It’s a way of showing just how invested everyone was in performing death-defying acts for the sake of compelling an audience. It’s all captured well. We see a lot of cool and creative action throughout the movie (partially due to credited stunt designer Chris O’Hara), and it’s shot clearly in a manner that would only make cynical minds question how dangerous this all was. On top of that, even the movie within the movie looks better than average, further blending the heightened world of this film with reality.

Many films believe that simply putting two big stars on screen together is all that’s needed, and the rest will come naturally. The Fall Guy is smart enough not to try and glide on by in a manner similar to a bomb like The Tourist with Depp and Jolie. Instead, it has clever writing, a great sense of humor, lots of well-staged action, a genuine interest in impressing the audience with real stunts, and an inviting attitude in all the right ways. Whether or not one is rooted in the original series, The Fall Guy is the sort of new-to-most-audiences adventure that should be embraced when it comes to fun summer offerings.

The Fall Guy opens in theaters and IMAX on May 3, 2024.

the fall guy

7
Good
Written by
Aaron Neuwirth is a movie fanatic and Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic from Orange County, California. He’s a member of the African American Film Critics Association, the Hollywood Critics Association, the Online Film Critics Society, and the Black Film Critics Circle. As an outgoing person who is always thrilled to discuss movies, he’s also a podcaster who has put far too many hours into published audio content associated with film and television. His work has been published at Variety, We Live Entertainment, Why So Blu, The Young Folks, Firstshowing.net, Screen Rant, and Hi-Def Ninja.

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