‘The Fall Guy’ review: Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt make movie magic from Mashable

It takes guts to attempt an action-packed romantic comedy. For every Romancing The Stone, there’s a barrage of forgettable imitators. (See: Argylle. Well, don’t see Argylle. It’s awful.

It’s a tricky thing to strike a satisfying balance of thrills and laughs with a love story that gets our hearts (and/or loins) engaged. But David Leitch, the former Brad Pitt stunt double turned director of such gonzo action movies as John Wick, Bullet Train, and Atomic Blonde, doesn’t scare easily. And now he’s delivered the gonzo gift to cinema that is The Fall Guy. 

Adapted from the 1980s TV series of the same name, this action-comedy centers on one of the unsung heroes of Hollywood: the stuntman (Barbie‘s Academy Award-nominated Ryan Gosling) who takes all the hits so that the arrogant A-lister (Bullet Train‘s Aaron Taylor-Johnson) doesn’t have to. But don’t fret if you aren’t familiar with the small-screen inspo. The Fall Guy is making its own fun, thanks to a crackling script from Drew Pearce, and the dazzling chemistry between Gosling and Emily Blunt. 

How does The Fall Guy movie relate to the TV series? 

Ryan Gosling is under attack in “The Fall Guy.”
Credit: Eric Laciste / Universal Pictures

Ryan Gosling plays Colt Seavers, a stuntman character originated by Lee Majors in the show created by Glen A. Larson. However, where Majors’ hero was moonlighting as a bounty hunter when he wasn’t on set, Gosling’s version is more a hapless nobody who stumbles into a criminal conspiracy. And it’s love that keeps him there. 

There’s trouble on the set of Metalstorm, a sci-fi epic/romance that stars the obnoxious Tom Ryder (Johnson) as a daring space cowboy. But when the mercurial movie star goes MIA, his old stunt double is called back into action. Not only is Colt tasked with doing intense stunts to keep the movie’s production schedule on track, but the high-strung producer Gail Meyer (Ted Lasso‘s Hannah Waddingham) asks him to unearth the missing actor. 

It’s not just the movie Colt is trying to save. You see, this is the directorial debut of his former flame, Jody Moreno (Emily Blunt). With his heart on his sleeve, this stuntman throws himself into the fray to make her dreams come true, all in hopes of scoring a second chance at romance. 

Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt are perfectly paired in The Fall Guy

Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt star in “The Fall Guy.”
Credit: Eric Laciste / Universal Pictures

Crucial to a good action/rom-com is a dynamic where conflict and chemistry collide. You need the stars to click on screen so the audience is invested in their getting together. But they need to be believably pugnacious with each other so the why of not being together is clear. 

Smartly, Blunt and Gosling gave the world a preview of their chemistry at the 96th Annual Academy Awards, where they playfully bickered over the Barbenheimer rivalry. In The Fall Guy, the characters are less openly hostile. Jody favors passive-aggressively dressing down Colt over a megaphone on set, while he pushes back with sheepish flirtations. (Look, he knows what he did.) While this sounds less than romantic, it is nonetheless enchanting. 

There is some suspension of disbelief required, of course, but not in the movie’s premise — it’s that Gosling is supposed to look like he’s not a movie star, while he still basically looks like Ken, albeit with some scruffy facial hair. However, as he did playing Ken or the battered detective in The Nice Guys, Gosling has a looseness to the physicality in his comedy that plays divinely. The stunts here are done by a top-notch stunt team, which the movie’s promotional tour is keen to celebrate. But Gosling brings to banter scenes and other comedic moments an ego-free display of mugging, an earnest thumbs-up gesture, and even crying to Taylor Swift’s “All Too Well” that establishes Colt as a goofball as much as a tough guy. When Blunt coolly instructs him to drive her to her car — parked just feet away from where they idle — you can see the core sense of humor they have in common. 

After a couple of Quiet Place movies and the sternness of Oppenheimer, it’s a delight to see Blunt back in comedy. She’s got terrific comedic timing that pairs perfectly with her well-placed hard stare. Her Jody isn’t made to be an ambitious bitch in the way of broad ’80s movie stereotypes, but she has her moments of playing rough. Yet Jody is chiefly defined by trying to maintain her cool under incredibly stressful circumstances, which makes little moments where she breaks down burst with humor — be it a karaoke jam to Phil Collins or literally grasping at a straw. 

Together, Gosling and Blunt create a could-be couple that’s alluring not only for their looks but also their awkwardness. Dumb jokes and fumbling flirtations shrewdly undercut what could be a glossy, unnatural rom-com to make a movie that’s endearing and entertaining. 

The Fall Guy is a winsome showbiz comedy. 

Ryan Gosling, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, and several stuntmen from “The Fall Guy.”
Credit: Eric Laciste / Universal Pictures

True to his reputation, Leitch provides plenty of outrageous action scenes once again. Some are for the movie-within-the-movie, including a car roll that broke a Guinness World Record. Some are part of Colt’s off-set misadventures, which include swordplay, fire fights, daring escapes, and a speedboat chase. 

As the discourse around including stunts in the Oscars rages on, The Fall Guy will definitely be a major talking point for advocates of the category addition. However, the stunt community representation within the film feels a bit thin, being just Colt and his stunt coordinator, played by a jovial Winston Duke. They’re a terrifically funny duo, but as the third act leans hard on the concept of community, I wished the broader stunt team were more present to make a big leap land more powerfully.

Winston Duke kicks ass in “The Fall Guy.”
Credit: Eric Laciste / Universal Pictures

The Fall Guy is about more than stunts, folding in the bonds that form across departments on set, including a horny VFX supervisor (Zara Michales), a too-Method ingenue (Teresa Palmer), and a perturbed personal assistant (Everything Everywhere All at Once‘s Stephanie Hsu). As a whole, this movie delights in giving a peek behind the scenes to reveal the messy human conflicts (which also make for great on-screen drama), as well as the absurdity inherent in playing pretend for a living. What is never mocked is the dream of making movies. 

Whether she’s furious at Colt or frustrated by outrageous obstacles, Jody is driven by making the movie that she’s dreamed of her whole life. Colt isn’t just dedicated to her but also to her vision, as is much of the supporting cast of characters. And in this, there’s an enveloping exhilaration, as if we the viewer are part of this collaboration too. This energetic sense of inclusion welcomes us into the twists, fails, and breakthroughs the characters face in an electrifying way. All of that barrels into a finale that is not just exciting but enthralling. 

The Fall Guy is action/romantic-comedy done right, a rare gem in the crown of this challenging subgenre. 

The Fall Guy was reviewed out of SXSW 2024. The film opens in theaters May 3

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