The Fall Guy

The Fall Guy
The Fall Guy
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The Fall Guy is a clever action comedy that kicks off the summer box office with a bang. Ryan Gosling is effortlessly charming as he dons his romantic hero cape to win Emily Blunt’s heart in a ruggedly sweet, aw-shucks manner. They have the kind of superstar lead chemistry studio suits drool over. David Leitch directs his best film yet, giving props to “the unknown stuntman that makes Eastwood look so fine.” The blockbuster adaptation of those memorable lyrics from the classic TV show has an overly meta plot and enough GMC truck product placement to stamp your forehead.

Colt Seaver (Gosling) strolls through a movie set while narrating what it means to be a Hollywood stuntman. He doubles for Tom Ryder (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), an A-lister who is laughably arrogant and insulting — and coddled like a spoiled toddler by mega-producer Gail Meyer (Hannah Waddingham). It’s Tom’s world and everyone else plays second fiddle. All Colt cares about is spending time with Jody Moreno (Emily Blunt), the camera operator. Once the film wraps, they’re going to sip spicy margaritas on a beach somewhere.

Almost two years later, Colt works as a valet at a Mexican restaurant. He gets a call from Gail in Sydney, Australia; she’s frantic on set. About to hang up, Gail tells him that Jody is directing her first film down there: Metal Storm, a sci-fi action romance. She lies to get Colt on the plane — she needs him to help solve her real problem. Tom Ryder has been missing for days; Gail’s worried he’s in serious trouble; she can’t keep lying to Jody and the film’s financiers about where Tom is; Colt needs to find him before Jody’s big chance gets ruined … etc., etc. Her reaction when Colt appears out of nowhere doesn’t go nearly as planned.

Screenwriter Drew Pearce (Iron Man 3, Hotel Artemis) mirrors the romance in Metal Storm with the rekindled relationship between Colt and Jody. They weren’t great communicators as a couple, but The Fall Guy allows them both to address things that are getting in the way of their smoldering love and attraction. These scenes are hilarious — they take place on a packed movie set where everyone around them fully understands what’s happening. You get invested because of Gosling and Blunt’s shared charisma; after all, who doesn’t want a happy ending? But riding off into the sunset together might not make for compelling cinema … their struggle to find artistic and personal happiness together is literally dynamite stuff.

David Leitch (Deadpool 2, Bullet Train) brilliantly showcases his talents as a renowned stuntman turned action director. The fight scenes, vehicle chases and death-defying plunges in The Fall Guy will leave you slack-jawed. He wisely avoids too much gunplay; Colt isn’t a trained killer, he’s just a professional who knows how to hurl himself on top of a speeding car without shattering every bone in his body. This movie constantly reminds us stunts are spectacularly dangerous; making things go boom requires meticulous planning and specific equipment — Colt expertly uses safety lines, rigs and harnesses. The movie-within-a-movie concept gets granular but doesn’t become a bore.

The central vanishing isn’t a case for Sherlock Holmes. You’ll figure out quickly enough where the tide is going. Leitch takes his foot off the gas in a long second act that’s all about getting the required exposition across. The pacing slows here, but not so much so as to fatally stump the fun. The movie has to catch its breath and let its stellar cast shine. Leitch isn’t going for nonstop adrenaline; some of the best bits are the softer character moments… Colt’s buddy scenes with lifelong pal Dan Tucker (Winston Duke), who adds levity and extra brawn when things get hairy… Teamwork makes the dream work; stunts are a group effort all around.

Aaron Taylor-Johnson doesn’t steal the show, exactly, but he’s a great slimy narcissist… He’s playing an extreme version of a self-obsessed, pompous actor with an entourage of sycophants scurrying around doing his every ridiculous bidding; Leitch and Pearce mine big laughs from cringe-worthy designer ads stars make for easy money. The movie satirizes how far celebrities go to seem real and be celebrated as such. Ryder repeating over and over again that he does all of his own stunts has gotta be a funny jab at Tom Cruise… Which then backfires when Leitch puts his production company’s logo front and center in key scenes… It’s also just kind of hilarious hearing Donald Sutherland say “We’re gonna need another ‘Fall Guy’!” The film winks at itself plenty without ever getting too cute.

There are also just enough Easter eggs to keep TV fans entertained: “The Fall Guy” takes the original premise in a new direction while always tipping its hat to what came before it. This movie lays track for multiple sequels, easily — sit through those credits for some fun surprises!

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