THE FALL GUY movie poster | ©2024 Universal Pictures

THE FALL GUY movie poster | ©2024 Universal Pictures

Rating: PG-13
Stars: Ryan Gosling, Emily Blunt, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Hannah Waddingham, Teresa Palmer, Stephanie Hsu, Winston Duke, Ben Knight
Writer: Drew Pearce, based on the TV series created by Glen A. Larson
Director: David Leitch
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Release Date: May 3, 2024

THE FALL GUY director David Leitch has been helming action movies for a while now. But before he was a director, he was a stuntman and a stunt coordinator. It’s clearly Leitch’s great pleasure in THE FALL GUY to show us how that side of filmmaking operates.

In fact, despite its thriller trappings, THE FALL GUY is pretty much an ode to stunt professionals, with courteous nods to everybody else who has below-the-line jobs on movies.

Scripted by Drew Pearce, based very loosely on the 1981-1986 TV series created by Glen A. Larson, THE FALL GUY introduces us to top Hollywood stuntman Colt Seavers (Ryan Gosling). Colt has had a good career, even before the last six years, during which he’s been the primary stunt double for worldwide superstar Tom Ryder (Aaron Taylor-Johnson).

Colt is having a wonderful romance with camera operator Jody Moreno (Emily Blunt). He’s sure she has a brilliant future ahead of her as a director. But a fall gone wrong literally breaks Colt’s back.

While Colt heals physically over eighteen months, for reasons fully explained later on, he disconnects from both showbiz and Jody. Despite what he tells himself and everybody else, Colt misses his woman and his work tremendously.

Then Tom’s producing partner Gail Meyer (Hannah Waddingham) tracks Colt down. She insists that Colt is the only person who can possibly double Tom on his new movie shooting in Australia, an interstellar epic romance titled METALSTORM. When Colt turns Gail down, she reveals that this is Jody’s directorial debut. Colt can’t say no to that.

Director Leitch, writer Pearce, and the stunt crew, headed by stunt designer-coordinator-second unit director Chris O’Hara and stunt coordinator Keir Beck, give every sign of having a blast taking us through various details of stunt work. We hear about pick points, roll cages, mouth guards, and more. They also get what seem like some heartfelt licks in about actors who insist that they do all their own stunts, producers who can’t tell one stunt person from another, and the fact that there’s no Oscar for stunts.

Not until these folks are good and ready do we get to the plot. It seems that Tom has gone missing. Fearing that the studio will pull the plug if they learn their leading man has vanished, Gail persuades Colt to go in search of Tom.

But Colt has a bigger priority – winning back Jody, who was truly hurt when he withdrew from her.

Gosling and Blunt are both so immediately charming and personable that of course we root for their characters to reunite. Gosling generates the kind of aw-shucks modesty that many stunt performers display. Taylor-Johnson is fine as the wide-eyed, self-justifying egomaniacal star, and Waddingham makes Gail seem like many relentless show-must-go-on producers in real life. Winston Duke is great as METALSTORM’s stunt coordinator, and Stephanie Tsu scores as a persistent personal assistant.

The dialogue is pleasingly snappy and the storyline makes sense within the parameters of what we’re seeing (suspension of disbelief becomes a given at a certain point).

Perhaps the biggest stumbling block to credibility is the notion that everybody thinks METALSTORM is a surefire hit, since it looks pretty terrible. (For starters, the alien love interest looks like a regular human, while her fellow aliens look wholly extraterrestrial.) Still, there are plenty of good gags mined from the alien costumes and props.

As to the stunts, both those being done on behalf of METALSTORM and those that are part of the narrative, they consistently impress. There is a lot of behind-the-scenes footage during the end credits showing how these were achieved, as well as respectful showcasing of Gosling’s stunt doubles: Logan Holladay for driving, Troy Brown for high falls, and Ben Jenkin and Justin Eaton for fights and other dangerous moves. It’s all visually exciting and hugely enjoyable.

We come away from THE FALL GUY with greater appreciation of the stunt community, especially because – as headed up by Leitch – they’ve just shown us such a good time here.

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