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‘The Fall Guy’ Review: Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt Sparkle in an Action-Comedy With Heart

The protagonist of David Leitch’s entertaining new action-comedy The Fall Guy doesn’t have many complaints about life as a stuntman. Sure, he does most of the hard work for half the recognition, but Colt Seavers (an ace Ryan Gosling) gets hype about jumping out of helicopters, diving off balconies and performing other dangerous physical feats that make movies look cool. He’s not an adrenaline junkie; he just understands the critical role stuntmen play on set.

Colt has been a stunt double for Tom Ryder (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), an international superstar with a lethal combo of arrogance and insecurity, for six years. The two share the type of sacred bond that’s only possible with someone who is paid to risk major injury and possible death for you.

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At the beginning of The Fall Guy, Colt, through voiceover, walks us through some details of his life. He excitedly introduces his colleague Jody Moreno (Emily Blunt), an aspiring director whom he recently started dating. The pair’s affair is, in Colt’s words, basically the stuff of movies.

It’s devastating when the near-perfect conditions of Colt’s life crumble after a stunt gone wrong. Fast-forward 18 months and the bruised stuntman is single, depressed and working as a valet who regularly takes wheatgrass shots.

In The Fall Guy, inspired by the 1980s TV series of the same name and written by Drew Pearce (Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, Hotel Artemis), Leitch uses his personal experience to shape a compelling ode to the craft that started his career. Before he helmed John Wick and Atomic Blonde, the director was a stunt double for Brad Pitt for a decade. He met the actor on Fight Club and spent the early part of his career helping Pitt backflip, roundhouse kick the bad guys, pull off of a sophisticated casino heist and confront his wife who is also secretly an assassin.

Leitch’s expertise and appreciation for stuntmen adds an endearing layer to the enjoyment of The Fall Guy, which premiered at SXSW. The director indulges in major and minor stunts, staging plenty of scenes with cars rolling over to escape exploding bombs and characters escaping choke holds from people determined to kill them. In each of these moments, Leitch strikes a balance of showmanship and mechanics. He teaches audiences to appreciate the number of people it takes to pull off a car crash or a human torch stunt. The action sequences in The Fall Guy vary, but each one offers a level of gripping precision.

More than a year after his unplanned retirement, Colt gets a call from Gail (Hannah Waddingham), a producer who is helping Jody direct her feature debut. She begs Colt to join the team as a stuntman. Buoyed by the possibility of rekindling his relationship with Jody, Colt flies to Australia. His return to the field is at once epic and awkward. He reunites with an old friend (an underused Winston Duke), who now serves as the production’s stunt coordinator, and has a series of uncomfortable run-ins with Jody.

Charming performances from Gosling and Blunt, coupled with their strong chemistry, make The Fall Guy a true delight. Gosling gets to exercise his comedic chops again here, channeling bits of Barbie‘s Ken in Colt. He pulls audiences close to the emotionally reserved stuntman who’d rather reach for a movie quote than express himself. Blunt not only flexes her own comedy muscles, she also stretches her character, preventing frenzied creative Jody from becoming too one-note. Some of the funniest scenes in The Fall Guy involve the two confronting issues in their relationship under the pretense of discussing Jody’s screenplay. Her debut, Metal Storm, is a big-budget space Western about a cowboy and alien whose intense romance ends abruptly. It’s a clear metaphor for her unresolved issues with Colt; their conversations revolve around nailing the third act.

As Colt figures out his relationship problems, he embarks on a journey to find Tom. Soon after the stuntman arrives in Australia, he learns that the action star and lead of Jody’s film has disappeared. With the help of his friends and later Gail’s assistant (a too-brief appearance by Stephanie Hsu), Colt traverses Sydney looking for clues and putting his years of stunt training to use. The information he collects from sneaking into hotels and impersonating Tom to access wealthy underground clubs reveals a wider and more sinister conspiracy. It’s around this point that weaknesses in The Fall Guy‘s narrative emerge — loose threads and nagging questions about the larger motivations behind some anti-Colt feelings.

Still, between car chases and psychedelic drug-influenced fights, Colt also gains a greater understanding of himself and his emotions. What ultimately makes The Fall Guy a rare good time among big-budget studio products is its genuine heart.

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