The Fall Guy (2024) Review

If balancing romance, action, comedy, and noir was a 150-foot high fall, The Fall Guy pretty much sticks the landing; okay, so maybe the stunt guy bounces off the pad when he lands, but he’s fine. Colt Seavers, played magnificently by Ryan Gosling, is the stunt man in question, and also the hero of David Leitch’s new stunt-lathered action romp. Gosling, along with Emily Blunt, playing first time female director Jody Moreno, carry the movie on the carabiner-clipped backs, oozing charm and charisma around every turn. The Fall Guy sees professional movie stuntman Colt Seavers get back into action on the set of Jody’s new movie, a sci-fi epic (and obvious Dune spoof), Metal Storm. Colt arrives on set in Sydney, Australia, to win back Jody’s heart, but producer Gail Meyer, played by Hannah Waddingham, has other ideas for Colt. She wants him to find Metal Storm’s leading man, Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s Tom Ryder, international action star. The events that follow are a protein shake blend of romance, action, noir-ish mystery, comedy, and some of the most impressive stunt work of the last decade, ranking alongside the Mission: Impossible and John Wick franchises.

Ryan Gosling is undeniable as the pining, heart-broken stuntman, having fully embraced his movie stardom is a post-Barbie era. He’s hung up the stoic, sad boy face and traded it in for bumbling, “he-just-like-me-for-real” type of energy (or, Kenergy). The Ken-Colt Seavers one-two punch confirms that he is our funniest, most charming movie star. Emily Blunt’s Jody Moreno is the other lead, and though she’s given a lot less to do than Gosling, and with a character less developed than Colt, she seems to be having fun. After her Oscar-nominated turn as Kitty Oppenheimer, infamous wife, playing a love-sick action direction was probably a breeze; she gets to let her British charm shine through, especially in scenes opposite Ryan. Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s Tom Ryder, a clear McConaughey riff, is spectacularly dumb. ATJ, having developed a fun working relationship with David Leitch in 2022’s Bullet Train, is clearly game for whatever Leitch cooks up for him. Waddingham, as producer Gail Meyer, is manic and has an insatiable thirst for Diet Coke. The cast rounds out with Winston Duke as Dan Tucker, stunt coordinator on set and Colt’s best friend off it, Stephanie Hsu as Alma Milan, Tom’s assistant and aspiring producer, and Teresa Palmer as Iggy Starr, the female lead of Metal Storm and Tom Ryder’s girlfriend. The whole cast is happy to be there, even if they are given next to nothing to do.

David Leitch, former stuntman and director of John Wick, Deadpool 2, Atomic Blonde, and Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw, clearly cares about the material. Not a writer himself, this is Leitch’s most personal project to date. Most of his talents are focused on stunt set-pieces. His camera is witty and knows when to hold on Gosling and Blunt for laughs, but the middle act makes the two hour and two minute runtime feel ten minutes too long; still, his action direction is undeniable. He’s doing his best to hold together a somewhat imbalanced script from scribe Drew Pearce, who previously worked with Leitch on the aforementioned Hobbs & Shaw. Pearce gives us a few enduring one-liners, such as “Nihilism is the sexy bacon,” but his script, intended to breeze through four genres at a minimum, often lingers in one genre for too long. Furthermore, the “big twist” of the movie hinges on the double entendre use of “fall guy,” which is equally clever and annoying.

Naturally, the stunt work is breathtaking, and includes, without giving away too many plot elements, a 150-foot high fall, a 225-foot car jump, a cannon roll, a boat jump, and a unique and impressive car chase. It would be a disservice not to mention the names Chris O’Hara, the stunt designer, and Justin Eaton, Troy Brown, Logan Holladay and Ben Jenkin, all of whom served as Gosling’s stunt doubles. Their work and mastery of their craft is more than evident and should be celebrated (perhaps at the Oscars, so says Colt Seavers). The script does not need to do much other than carry us from awe-inspiring stunt to awe-inspiring stunt. Another highlight is the soundtrack, which has a pitch-perfect inclusion of Taylor Swift’s “All Too Well,” some of “that old time rock and roll,” and a fantastic Blake Shelton cover of the original Fall Guy Theme, now titled “Unknown Stuntman,” which I played three times on the ride home from the theater.

At the time of this article, The Fall Guy has earned $66M on a budget of $130M, which struck a panic across the metaphysical “Film Twitter” over the weekend, and was quickly dubbed a box office failure. 2022’s The Lost City could indicate that a film of this nature, meaning action-rom-coms with a hard-to-pin-down audience, might have some legs over the next few weeks. In the month of May, The Fall Guy will be competing against a new Planet of the Apes installment, a Mad Max saga, a few of John Krasinski’s imaginary friends, and a lasagna-loving cat. I’m not sure how The Fall Guy will continue to fare, but my theater was three-quarters full and loving it on a Tuesday night, which bodes well for the movie at least breaking even. Nevertheless, if it does totally stumble out of the box office, as a Universal picture, it will find its way onto Peacock in a few short months and undoubtedly become a smashing streaming success. Box office failure or not, the movie works, and movies like it (mostly-original blockbusters built around movie stars) should continue to receive a big stunt man thumbs up. If I were Siskel and Ebert, I’d give it two.

brysonschubert

Hey, my name is Bryson! My favorite movie is Ferris Bueller's Day Off. My three favorite filmmakers are Rian Johnson, Edgar Wright, and Quentin Tarantino. You can find me on Letterboxd @brysonschubert!

brysonschubert

Hey, my name is Bryson! My favorite movie is Ferris Bueller's Day Off. My three favorite filmmakers are Rian Johnson, Edgar Wright, and Quentin Tarantino. You can find me on Letterboxd @brysonschubert!

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