The Fall Guy Review: Ryan Gosling, Emily Blunt Turn Film Into Delightfully Goofy Onscreen Duet

The Fall Guy Review: An unabashedly gleeful blend of action, thrills, comedy, romance and a robust sound design.

May 2, 2024 - 11:00
The Fall Guy Review: Ryan Gosling, Emily Blunt Turn Film Into Delightfully Goofy Onscreen Duet

Ryan Gosling channels his inner Ken and creates an action-comedy version of his Barbie character in The Fall Guy, former stunt coordinator and Brad Pitt's stunt double David Leitch's lively tribute to the underappreciated members of his erstwhile tribe of performers who risk life and limb to liven up the movies. Like he did in the Greta Gerwig film, Ryan Gosling finds an able and clued-in ally in Emily Blunt, who exudes a whole lot of effortless charm to turn the pairing of the two stars into a delightfully goofy onscreen duet that drives the film into a zone where you stop doubting the plausibility of what is unfolding on the screen.

David Leitch, who has directed films like Atomic Blonde and Bullet Train, knows the world of stunts inside out. Working with a screenplay by Drew Pearce (who co-wrote Leitch's Hobbs & Shaw), he packs The Fall Guy with highly combustible action sequences both in the film's real world and in the under-production film-within-a-film. The new movie taking shape in Sydney gives two exes - a stuntman and a debuting director - to get back together and try and rekindle their lost spark.

An unabashedly gleeful blend of action, thrills, comedy, romance and a robust sound design, The Fall Guy centres on Ryan Gosling's Colt Seavers - the name of the male protagonist is borrowed from the 1980s ABC television series (also titled The Fall Guy) in which Lee Majors starred as a stuntman who moonlights as a bounty hunter and crime-buster.

Colt is the stunt double of the narcissistic, exceedingly badly behaved action superstar, Tom Ryder (Aaron Taylor-Johnson, cheerfully uninhibited in unleashing the character's eccentric excesses).

His worldwide aura rides on the claim that he performs his own stunts on the screen. Colt's work for Tom remains unacknowledged.

Early in the film, a plunge goes horribly wrong. Colt ends up in a hospital with a broken back, an abruptly disrupted career and an unintended end to his blossoming romantic liaison with camera operator Jody Moreno (Blunt). His dream of travelling to a beach with Jody to drink spicy margaritas and "make bad decisions" dies a quick death.

A year and a half later, while Colt is still trying to sort out his life and head, he receives a call from Tom's producer Gail Meyer (Hannah Waddingham, who furthers the spirit of the film with her all her might). She is currently producing Jody's directorial debut, sci-fi epic Metalstorm - its tagline is "It's High Noon at the edge of the universe". She lies to Colt that it is Jody who wants him to return to the thick of the action.

Colt lands in Sydney for the shoot only to figure out that Jody is still cross with him and is ill at ease with his presence on the set. But under stunt coordinator and old friend Dan Tucker (Black Panther star Winston Duke), he performs a record eight and a half (Daniel Leitch and Ryan Gosling certainly do not have Fellini in mind here, or do they?) cannon rolls with a stunt car.

Colt and Dan are fast and furious with references to and lines from action flicks like Rocky and The Fast and the Furious. And when things settle down a tad for Colt and Jody amid all the pyrotechnics and chases that he is drawn into in reality and on the film set, out comes tangential nods to rom-coms such as Notting Hill, Love Actually and Pretty Woman.  

Returning to the story, Colt is embroiled in a criminal conspiracy involving Tom Ryder and his current cronies - a bunch of shady characters whose emergence looms like a huge threat over Jody's film. Tom has gone missing, Jody is unaware of his absence, and Gail orders Colt to find the lead actor before the studio pulls the plug on the project.

Do you want Jody's first film to be her last? That is the question Gail directs at Colt. It spurs him into instant action. There is no stopping The Fall Guy from here on. As the hero takes it upon himself to save his girlfriend's film at all cost, he has to reckon with murderous shooters, a sword-wielding actress, a dead body on ice in a hotel room, a gun that fires blanks, a trailer run amok on the streets of Sydney and an ammunition dump that goes up in flames.  

Matters turn messier with each passing minute, but Colt is up for every challenge. Ryan Gosling goes all out to make it all work. He succeeds without breaking a sweat. The plot may not be entirely believable and the romantic track, too, demands a degree of willing suspension of disbelief, but it is easy to be swept up by the ride, thanks to Gosling's magnetism.

The Fall Guy is fun, what with its relentless action scenes, its cross-references to films we have loved, the endearing banter (now lovey-dovey, now sceptical) that the leads engage in and the hint of wit in the romance. Leitch orchestrates the combo of star power and pulpy mayhem for maximum effect.  

Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt are joined in the turmoil, apart from a host of good and bad guys, by a ferocious guard dog named Jean-Claude who only understands French. But neither language nor the generic idiom is a barrier here.

There is something so universal and endearingly boyish about The Fall Guy that even the essentially Hollywood insider story that it narrates has the feel of an easy-to-grasp fable designed as a shot at giving stunt performers the due that they have always been denied.

Even when The Fall Guy is making a case for a better deal for stuntmen, it does not lose sight of what it is out to deliver - unalloyed, uninterrupted excitement. It does precisely that and by the bushels.   

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