REVIEW – ‘The Fall Guy’ is a wild spectacle with plenty of heart, humour, and “how the hell did they do that?!” stunts

In 2023, Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt were supporting players in two of the biggest films of the year that combined to become the weirdest double bill in cinema history. Gosling and Blunt stole focus as the unappreciated partners of the titular characters in Barbie and Oppenheimer and both rightly waltzed away with Oscar nominations.

Now they’re back in the lead in a film steadfastly determined to make blockbusters fun again. Remember those days? Remember fun?! A ridiculously entertaining, genuinely funny, and charmingly romantic crowd-pleaser, The Fall Guy soars on both the sparkling chemistry and impeccable comedic timing of two actors at the height of their powers.

Gosling plays veteran stuntman Colt Seavers, a man who seemingly has it all. For several years, he’s enjoyed a permanent gig as the stunt double for actor Tom Ryder (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), aka the biggest movie star on the planet. He’s renowned in the industry as a consummate professional who never makes a mistake. And he’s currently relishing a secret romance with Jody Moreno (Blunt), a camera operator dreaming of one day becoming a director.

But everything changes for Colt when an accident on set causes him to break his back and subsequently cut himself off from the world including a bewildered Jody. A year and a half later, Colt receives an unexpected call from Tom’s producing partner Gail Mayer (Hannah Waddingham), who offers him a job working on Megastorm; an epic sci-fi currently in production in Sydney and directed by none other than Jody.

Naturally, Colt jumps at the chance to reunite with the woman he knows he wronged. There’s just one small problem; Jody has no idea about Gail’s offer to Colt and she’s hardly thrilled to see her ex-boyfriend rock up on set. And there’s one other little problem; Tom has gone missing under suspicious circumstances and Gail has tasked Colt to find him before Jody’s entire production is shut down.

A former stuntman himself, director David Leitch clearly wants The Fall Guy to be his heartfelt love letter to the craft of stunt work. His adoration for the men and women who put their lives on the line for our entertainment permeates through every frame. And Leitch and his huge team of stunt performers offer up some of the most spectacular physical stunts we’ve seen in quite some time.

If Gosling and Blunt are the film’s two stars, the third is undoubtedly the stuntwork. Given the film’s movie-within-a-movie conceit, the stunts are often structured, planned, and executed right in front of us. It gives audiences an eye-opening insight into just how sharp, intricate, and methodical stunt performers need to be and the terrifying dangers involved in such a line of work.

They are often the unsung heroes of filmmaking, especially in the days before CGI became the choice de-jour for crafting chaotic action sequences. Producing massive stunts in physical environments as opposed to those found in a computer is fast becoming a lost art. But not if people like Leitch have anything to say about it.

It’s likely why the filmmaker is going all out here with utterly insane stunt work, including a record-breaking 8-and-a-half cannon roll car stunt. A fight sequence set inside a moving dumpster truck is absolutely outrageous, particularly when the action moves to the Sydney Harbour Bridge. And if you don’t believe they actually filmed this scene on the famous Aussie landmark, take it from a Sydney local who remembers the traffic chaos of the bridge being shut down during filming.

Drew Pearce‘s cracking screenplay injects plenty of film references and insider jokes that seem to be specifically designed to tickle those who love and/or work in the film industry. From a jab about the Oscars failing to honour stunt work (enough is enough, Academy) and the fear around the rise of AI and deep fakes to an extended gag centred around Dune that would surely make even Denis Villeneuve laugh, it’s all very shrewdly meta and self-aware.

But, of course, none of this would really work without Gosling and Blunt firing on all cylinders like the absolute movie stars they are. If Ken was the role Gosling was born to play, Colt Seavers is another character that fits him like a glove. His effortless charisma and nature charm are so perfect for such a loveable character who is the ultimate good guy. Gosling gets the lion’s share of the film’s comedy, be it slapstick physical humour or deadpan sarcasm; both of which he’s adept at delivering.

Gosling and Blunt have the kind of electric chemistry that simply cannot be faked. From the moment these two share first share the screen, you just want to watch them do anything together. Flirt, fight, kiss, insult each other. Sometimes all three in one scene. Even moments of this gorgeous pair just staring at one another are somehow utterly magic. How have these two actors never worked together until now? And when are they working together again?

If there is one quibble to be made, it’s that Jody ironically almost feels like this film’s equivalent of a Ken. With very little character development or narrative motivation, Jody doesn’t really exist without Colt. Everything with her gravitates around him. This film is wonderfully old school in so many ways, but its inability to write a meaty leading female character is something we left behind years ago.

Blunt is so damn talented that she manages to rise above it all, especially as she’s so deft as being a phenomenal “straight-man” for any actor to play off. The same can be said for Waddingham, who’s saddled with a fairly paper-thin, money-hungry producer archetype, but one that gives her the opportunity to hilariously and consistently steal focus like only she can.

It’s probably unnecessary to pick at a lack of depth in a film that really just wants to be pure, unadulterated popcorn entertainment. I dare you to try and leave the cinema without a giant smile on your face. Gosling and Blunt are a match made in heaven. A wild spectacle with plenty of heart, humour, and “how the hell did they do that?!” stunts, The Fall Guy is a total blast.

Distributor: Universal Pictures
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Emily Blunt, Winston Duke, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Hannah Waddingham, Stephanie Hsu
Director: David Leitch
Producers: Kelly McCormick, David Leitch, Ryan Gosling, Guymon Casady
Screenplay: Drew Pearce
Cinematography: Jonathan Sela
Production Design: David Scheunemann
Costume Design: Sarah Evelyn
Editor: Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir
Music: Dominic Lewis

Running Time: 114 minutes
Release Date: 24th April 2024 (Australia)

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