The Fall Guy

Ryan Gosling is at his most charming — including while batting around screwball banter with Emily Blunt — in this dynamic action/rom-com ode to stunt performers.
Sarah Ward
Published on April 24, 2024


The Nice Guys mightn't have scored a sequel, but The Fall Guy does nicely instead. Getting a hearty workout: Ryan Gosling's charm, comedic talent that just earned an Oscar-nominated showcase in Barbie and action skills as last seen in The Gray Man. He's back in stunts, too, as Drive first gifted the world so mesmerisingly. A loose remake of the 80s television series of the same name, The Fall Guy is a take-it-and-run-with-it kind of film, then. Not only does it grasp hold of what Gosling does best and sprint, but the same applies for co-lead Emily Blunt (Pain Hustlers) — and, of course, for director David Leitch (Bullet Train), who first took the journey from stunt performer to filmmaker with John Wick, has kept filling his resume with action fare since (see: Atomic Blonde, Deadpool 2, Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw and Bullet Train) and now virtually comes full circle in helming a flick where his protagonist does the same gig that he once did.

Gosling's Colt Seavers is also taking it and running with it — in a profession where it's his job to help bring whatever impossible physical endeavour is required to the screen, as well as on the gig that gets him to Sydney. The Fall Guy starts 18 months prior to his trip Down Under, however, but still with him doubling for Tom Ryder (Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Bullet Train), one of the world's biggest actors. Seavers has a career that he loves and steady work at it thanks to Ryder's fame. He's also happily romancing Jody Moreno (Blunt), a camera operator with dreams of doing more. Then a stunt goes wrong, leaving him badly injured, battered and bruised emotionally and psychologically, and inspiring him to quit the business. Only a call from Ryder-loving producer Gail Meyer (Hannah Waddingham, Ted Lasso) sparks his return to the industry — he makes a crust as a valet once he's fit and able in-between — and, even then, it's only really the fact that Moreno is helming Ryder's latest movie as her directorial debut that nudges him onto the plane.

Upon his arrival in Australia, Seavers soon discovers that the situation isn't exactly what he's been told. Ryder is missing from the Metalstorm set, putting the future of the production at risk. Shady folks keep popping up whenever anyone — well, Seavers — goes looking for the absent star. And Moreno had zero advance idea that the man who ghosted her had been enlisted on the shoot, and is far from thrilled about it or the way that their relationship ended. Trying to win her back, getting emotional fortification from Taylor Swift tunes The Bear-style, attempting to track down Ryder, evading the unsavoury figures on this trail, bouncing around Sydney: sometimes while fending off sword-swinging foes, sometimes while wearing fluoro, sometimes while paired with an acting dog who'll chomp on command, that's all on Seavers' plate in Drew Pearce's (Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw) zippy screenplay.

There's an easy, breezy vibe to The Fall Guy, the kind that comes from knowing wholeheartedly that you're capitalising upon the strengths of your key players. Although Seavers dates back to the television iteration and there was a Jody on the small screen, too (Banks, not Moreno), the film's main pair were moulded around Gosling and Blunt — and it always shows. For him, it's a charisma-forward performance whether he's getting goofy, earnest or thrust into a fray. His Kenergy-fuelled comic timing is impeccable, as is his ability to sell Seavers' soul-searching stint after a career that requires him to be invincible reminds him that no one is. For her, joining a resume that also includes excellent action turns in Looper and Edge of Tomorrow, it's a portrayal built on pluck. When Gosling and Blunt are together, the film boasts as much crackling chemistry — often of the screwball type — as it does dynamic fights, explosions, shootouts and car chases (one of the latter famously on the Sydney Harbour Bridge).

And there are fights, explosions, shootouts and car chases (and boat jumps, helicopter battles and vehicular cannon rolls). You don't make a movie about a stunt performer on a mystery-caper adventure while working on a mega-budget alien sci-fi war romance flick — a film that turns the Sydney Opera House into a backdrop while it's at it — without highlighting stunts, stunts and more stunts. You definitely don't hold back if this was once your life as well. The action doesn't disappoint, nor does the commitment to weaving how such action comes to fruition into The Fall Guy's action sequences, complete with underscoring the importance of practical effects in the broader feature and the picture within it. This is a winking-and-nodding movie to its primary genre, lovingly so, right down to references built into the film. With stunt coordinator Dan Tucker (Winston Duke, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever), Seavers swaps references to other films (The Last of the Mohicans and Rocky III, for instance). One of his prized possessions: a Miami Vice jacket.

The words of 'Unknown Stuntman', the theme to TV's The Fall Guy which gets a new cover here, are clearly a guiding light for Leitch on this movie: "I might fall from a tall building, I might roll a brand-new car, 'cause I'm the unknown stuntman that made Redford such a star" is one memorable line. Accordingly, though the very basis of filmmaking's stunt performer-actor setup is that the former are meant to convince the audience that it's the latter risking their lives, revelling in everything that The Fall Guy throws Gosling's way as Seavers means relishing the work of his doubles Ben Jenkin (Transformers: Rise of the Beasts) and Justin Eaton (The Killer). The campaign for the stunts game to be given the credit it deserves — aka an Oscar category — couldn't earn a more persuasive push, then. Leitch's feature manages something that most flicks would kill for, because action deployed for the sake of it, then shot frantically and edited messily, gets repetitive; The Fall Guy is the lively, passionate and meticulously crafted antithesis of routine smashing and bashing.

Back-and-forth rom-com bantering can similarly fall flat if the stars and the vibe aren't right. There's something about Sydney of late: in Anyone But You, Sydney Sweeney (Immaculate) and Glen Powell (Top Gun: Maverick) made it work in the Harbour City, as Gosling and Blunt do in the same place in The Fall Guy. So, while The Nice Guys mightn't have received a follow-up, it's easy to see The Fall Guy becoming a big-screen franchise, and welcomely. At the very least for its magnetic leads, it should set a new repeat double act in motion. Gosling teamed up with Emma Stone (Poor Things) three times on Crazy, Stupid, Love, Gangster Squad and La La Land, and makes an equally delightful duo with his current co-star. Just as there should be no underestimating stunt feats in general or in this flick, as Leitch stresses again and again, there should be no downplaying the ride that Gosling and Blunt take their characters on in this fun film, either — from doing the hard work while others win the glory to finally getting their time to shine.


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