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Director David Leitch has had an interesting career post-John WickAtomic Blonde was a respectable actioner that didn’t quite come together in the end. Deadpool 2 served as a marked downgrade from the fresh original. And the less said about Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw the better. Bullet Train was a marked improvement, but it was clear that former directing partner Chad Stahelski was the one doing more interesting things with the John Wick sequels as proof. The Fall Guy emphatically bucks that trend.

On the surface, an adaptation of a short-running television series from the 1980s doesn’t inspire much confidence. David Leitch uses this framework as a springboard to create a love letter to the community he holds near and dear to his heart: stunt performers. Moreover, The Fall Guy is simply a great rom-com. Coasting on bombastic stunt work and swoon-inducing chemistry from Ryan Gosling and Emily BluntThe Fall Guy is a born crowd pleaser.

The Fall Guy has a surprisingly engaging story

The Fall Guy television series (which starred Lee Majors) serves as a very loose springboard for the movie. The series follows stunt performers who work as bounty hunters on the side. Leitch‘s film keeps the conceit of stunt performers uncovering crime, although the similarities end there. As he displayed on Iron Man 3, screenwriter Drew Pearce is insistent on subverting expectations.

Colt Seavers (Ryan Gosling) is a respected stuntman who retired due to a horrific accident on set. Living a quiet life of regret, he comes back into action when he’s asked to be the main stunt coordinator on a project directed by old flame Jody Moreno (Emily Blunt).

As he tries to win her back, producer Gail Meyer (Hannah Waddingham) tasks him with a more crucial mission. The film’s star, Tom Ryder (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is missing. If Colt can find Ryder, he’ll save the movie and potentially rekindle the spark with Jody. Colt takes the mission with gusto, not realizing he’s walking into a vast conspiracy way above his pay grade.

Dialogue wise, Pearce hasn’t lost his edge. There is no lack of “laugh out loud” one-liners and gags to keep audiences rolling in the aisles. More importantly, the central storyline is one of the more clever explorations of the film industry out there. The Fall Guy nails the industry lingo first and foremost, translating the hard work it takes to make a movie into a palatable rollercoaster ride. The Fall Guy‘s script takes on pressing issues, such as safety on set, artificial intelligence, deep fakes, and volatile movie stars. It does all this without being cynical, and by keeping the romance and adventure front and center.

There’s a lot more to chew on here than, say, the likes of ArgylleThe Lost City, or Anything But You. It’s a rom-com pleasing many sides of the aisle. Above genre distinctions, it’s just a heck of a fun story that constantly stays a few steps ahead of the audience. The only real downside to Drew Pearce‘s script is that it’s doing so much that some characters (namely Winston Duke as Colt’s best friend and Stephanie Hsu as Tom’s agent) get a bit lost in the shuffle.

Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt in The Fall Guy.
Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt in The Fall Guy. (Universal Pictures)

Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt light up the silver screen

A movie like The Fall Guy lives or dies on the chemistry between its stars. It’s a blessing, then, that David Leitch nabbed two Oscar nominees. Ryan Gosling is in rare goofball mode. He throws himself fully into the physical comedy, and his twitchy, affable Colt Seavers reminds us why Gosling is such a movie star. 

Emily Blunt brings much-appreciated layers to what could’ve been a one-note character. She’s driven, artistic, and unwilling to take any of Colt’s B.S. In other words, they’re the exact couple you want to see come together by the end of the film. One has to wonder how much of them are based off husband-wife team David Leitch and Kelly McCormick, the latter of whom served as a producer on the film.

It doesn’t hurt that the rest of the cast is filled out with some great supporting performances. Ted Lasso fans will get a kick out of Hannah Waddingham as a flustered producer who gets some of the third act’s best moments. Aaron Taylor-Johnson is once again reliable to go absolutely off-the-wall as unhinged movie star Tom Ryder. And even if their screen time doesn’t match their charm, Winston Duke and Stephanie Hsu are nice to see in just about anything.

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The Fall Guy brings the heat when it comes to action

Although the look of the film leaves a lot to be desired by cinematographer Jonathan Sela (John Wick, Transformers: The Last Knight), save for one sequence where a drugged-up Gosling hallucinates an anime-esque duel in a nightclub, the action very much passes the test. Cannon rolls, simulated wrecks, large jumps, nearly missing danger at the last minute; The Fall Guy plays like a greatest hits reel of movie stunts.

What makes it work so well is that the plot of the movie emphasizes the danger stuntmen go through. Therefore, knowing that the stunts in the movie were performed by real trained professionals rather than cynically using CG body doubles and vehicles makes everything all the more thrilling.

As Ryan Gosling proudly said at the film’s SXSW premiere, “I did almost all of my own stunts in this movie”. In an era where actors doing their own stunts is seen as the ultimate positive, Gosling and David Leitch instead throw the spotlight onto the stunt community.

In that way, The Fall Guy is an empathic love letter to stunt work. No, The Fall Guy is much more. The Fall Guy is pure entertainment, playing to the action crowd, the rom-com crowd, heck, every crowd to great success. It took him a while, but David Leitch finally found the perfect movie for his sensibilities. I doubt it will be his last great crowd-pleaser, as The Fall Guy is a harbinger for things to come.

The Fall Guy releases in theaters May 3, 2024. Are you excited to see it? Let us know on social media @mycosmiccircus or in The Cosmic Circus Discord.

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James Preston Poole

James Preston Poole is a Houston-based writer who specializes in genre film, while also screenwriting and working on film sets whenever he can. He believes that as long as there’s someone out there to champion a movie, then there’s no such thing as “objectively bad.” James holds a Bachelor of Science in Radio-Television-Film from the University of Texas and owes everything to his friends, family, significant other Catherine, and their three-legged cat Trinity.

James Preston Poole has 22 posts and counting. See all posts by James Preston Poole