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'The Fall Guy' Review

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May 1, 2024
Hunter Friesen
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“A love letter to stunt actors” has been the overused line to promote The Fall Guy, directed by former stuntman David Leitch, who’s now become a Hollywood action staple behind the camera (Deadpool 2, Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, Bullet Train). While it’s a true statement in the emotional sense, with Leitch obviously showing great respect and pride for the craft and people that make it happen, the actual events within the film, many of them using stunts in service of lame action set pieces, make it as much a love letter to stunt actors as Madame Web is to paramedics and The Batman is to detectives. There was an opportunity in the beginning for The Fall Guy to keep its sights set on those it so desperately wants to be paraded by, but Drew Pearce’s (writer of Hobbs & Shaw) script always finds a way to take the road that’s been traveled by every other action blockbuster in this era.

Things start with stuntman Colt Seavers (Ryan Gosling) working on the set of another major action vehicle for global superstar Tom Ryder (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). Stuntmen are supposed to be the invisible heroes, but Colt becomes the most famous one in the world after he’s in an accident that breaks his back. He becomes a loner, essentially leaving Jody (Emily Blunt) at the altar just as their relationship was starting to heat up. He eventually gets lured back years later to help save Jody’s blockbuster directorial debut, MetalStorm, which is essentially a cross of Mad Max and Dune if it was directed by Zack Snyder. Ryder is the star of the picture, but he’s gone missing, so Colt is brought in to perform the stunts and see the film get over the hump.

That premise alone should have been more than enough to carry this film. You’ve got romance with Gosling and Blunt sizzling up the screen with their will-they, won’t-they chemistry, and you’ve got action in the form of the stunt work, all of which impresses on a technical level. The early scenes of Gosling (or, to be correct, his stunt man) rolling over in simulated car crashes and being lit on fire do make you appreciate the blood, sweat, and tears required by these brave people to create something out of nothing.

It’s just a great shame that Pearce and Leitch decide to limit all that reality-based movie magic to the first act, instead focusing the large majority of the bloated runtime on a weak caper plot about what’s happened to Ryder. The producer of the film, Gail (Hannah Waddingham), has Colt look for him, which gets him mixed up with drug dealers and a horde of goons. A murder conspiracy and lots of shootouts and explosions ensue, yet none of it feels impressive as it continually inches closer to implausibility. Sure, it’s all part of the summer blockbuster fun, but it’s also hard to take this movie’s message about the realities of stunt work seriously when our protagonist is an indestructible superhero who surfs a highway on a shovel while dodging bullets, and the big stunt salute is just a poorly choreographed big-team brawl.

Also feeding into the feelings of overindulgence is now clichéd meta banter Gosling and Blunt frequently engage in. Both of them are great performers who have clearly shown their comedic chops (Gosling in Barbie, Blunt in The Devil Wears Prada), but they’re not working with altogether great material here. More times than not a laugh comes from Gosling or Blunt oozing every bit of charisma they have to make it work, which also inversely makes other attempts at comedy feel oversold.

The Fall Guy gets points for having its heart in the right place, but it also gets docked quite a few by failing to put its money where its mouth is. There’s a hard, bland outer shell that prevents us from truly tasting the heartfelt inner core that Leitch thinks the movie is always tapping into. Summer movie season truly is back, but it’s unfortunately starting with more a whimper than a bang.

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