Thursday, May 2, 2024


 by Rob DiCristino

Wait, a genuine summer action movie? What year is it?

“Do they give Oscars for stunts?” asks a drug dealer in David Leitch’s The Fall Guy. Our stuntman hero, the awesomely-named Colt Seavers (Ryan Gosling) replies with a grimace that obviously mirrors the feelings of his stuntman-turned-director. To date, they do not give Oscars for stunts, but Leitch and the rest of The Fall Guy’s creative team mount an impressive case in their new adaptation of the 1980s TV series. At once a meta-minded satire of big-budget Hollywood filmmaking and an earnest celebration of the dangerous, often fatal craft that makes so much of it possible, The Fall Guy is also a victory lap for stars Gosling and Emily Blunt — both fresh off the awards circuit for Barbie and Oppenheimer, respectively — and a return to form for John Wick co-director Leitch and screenwriter Drew Pearce (Iron Man 3) after underwhelming missteps like Bullet Train, Hotel Artemis, and Atomic Blonde. Above all, The Fall Guy is an entertaining, enthusiastic action movie made by professional storytellers with no conspicuous ulterior motive. Hard to imagine, right?
But here we are! We begin with Colt and Jody Moreno (Blunt) in the midst of an on-set fling. Jody’s an assistant director poised for her big break, while Colt is the regular double for action heartthrob Tom Ryder (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). When a botched fall leaves Colt with a broken back and a shattered ego, however, he abandons his career and his girl, going completely off the grid for more than a year. Seeing an opportunity to reunite the lovers, producer Gail Meyer (Ted Lasso’s Hannah Waddingham) convinces Colt to surprise Jody on the set of her directorial debut, a high-concept Dune/Mad Max mashup called Metalstorm. Jody is less than thrilled to be thrown back together with the guy who ghosted her, but their screwball antics are interrupted when Ryder — whom Colt already resents for his role in the accident that blew up his career — goes unexpectedly AWOL. Now, Colt must save the star, unravel the mystery of his disappearance, get Metalstorm in the can on time and on budget, and finally confess the romantic feelings he’s bottled up since his tragic fall.

Armed with Gosling’s unstoppable charisma — he’s in full Nice Guys mode, fueled by guile and held together with duct tape — and Pearce’s ability to lean on the fourth wall without breaking it completely, Leitch takes a very welcome opportunity to go hog wild on the stunts, staging car chases, sword fights, and speed boat jumps of every shape and size. He revels most in the backstage of it all, foregrounding the crash pads, wire work, and controlled demolition teams that help make our silver screen dreams a reality. Metalstorm’s stunt coordinator Dan Tucker (Winston Duke) is Leitch’s most obvious avatar, a seasoned pro undeterred by his director’s spur-of-the-moment demands for complicated, single-take battle scenes or live pyrotechnics. The “stuntman thumbs-up” is a running gag throughout, a proud — if undeniably thorny — prerequisite for any performer hoping to make a career as a human pin cushion. “The truth is, it all hurts,” Colt eventually admits, adding a layer of pathos to what could have easily been a mindless barrage of chaos and destruction.
Even with Leitch’s expertise on full display, though, The Fall Guy is best when it’s milking the chemistry between its leads, both of whom are on absolute fire throughout. Emily Blunt’s Jody is closer to her Devil Wears Prada character than her steely badass from Edge of Tomorrow, a hyper-competent A-type with neuroses to spare. It’s a refreshing change of pace from the haggard wives littering her IMDb page of late, and the film does itself a rare disservice by sidelining her for much of the back half. In fact, The Fall Guy’s best scene finds her in the director’s chair, haranguing Colt with a very public post-breakup interrogation between takes of a particularly brutal fire stunt. Give an answer she doesn’t like? Time for another take! Ryan Gosling rises to meet her with his trademark combination of machismo and vulnerability, leaping from skyscrapers and jamming out to the ten-minute version of Taylor Swift’s “All Too Well” with equal gusto. We’re now in genuine danger of underappreciating Gosling, whose post-Barbie success has introduced him to a whole new audience.
So while it may not be as subversive as Ed Wood or as droll as Hail, Caesar!, The Fall Guy is nonetheless a refreshing celebration of the movies and those who make them, a reminder to audiences everywhere that their entertainment is and always should be lovingly crafted by human beings with vision and passion for their art. There are quibbles here and there, of course, especially as Pearce’s plotting gets increasingly convoluted near the end — there’s a definite Shane Black smell on some of those pages — but even that is handled with enough of a knowing wink that we find ways to forgive it. More than anything else, it’s just exciting to begin the summer season with a genuine hit, an assertive and crowd-pleasing blockbuster that doesn’t feel engineered by a panel of executives whose sole directive is kick-starting a new franchise. Like the rough-and-tumble warriors who populate its world — both in-universe and out — The Fall Guy leaves everything on the field for its audience. Want quality blockbusters from Hollywood again? Honor their sacrifice and buy a damn ticket.

The Fall Guy is in theaters Friday, May 3rd.


  1. WOW! It sounds AMAZING. How many times have I wished for Nice Guys 2. Plus, Ryan Gosling AND Aaron Taylor Johnson?

    1. OMG...Nice Guys 2 would be such a treat.