‘The Fall Guy’ Movie Review: A Gleeful Action Spectacular

It might be a little much to claim that Ryan Gosling is singlehandedly reinventing American masculinity onscreen. On the other hand, he has followed up his global triumph in Barbie (and winning of the Oscar in all our hearts with his performance of I’m Just Ken at the Academy Awards) with The Fall Guy, during which he cries in his truck to Taylor Swift. No other American actor is so secure in himself that he’d be willing to cry onscreen like this. Not even George Clooney or Matt Damon, neither of whom are sufficiently relaxed to make fun of themselves like this, have ever gone so far. (Shah Rukh Khan would be another story.) 

In addition to this unbelievably charming self-confidence, what makes Mr. Gosling so utterly beloved is that he shares The Fall Guy not just with the millions of stuntmen who do the work the movie is about. As a leading man, Mr. Gosling splits billing, screen time and dramatic intensity with Emily Blunt as Jody, a movie director, and the thwarted love interest of his stuntman Colt. Their flirtation is as charming and relaxed as anything onscreen since Ms. Blunt crossed swords with Mr. Damon in The Adjustment Bureau back in 2011. But that movie, which largely involved men in hats running around New York City, is a black-and-white photo compared to The Fall Guy, a love letter to the intense hard work that goes into making fun movies, where people jump, run around, and fall in love. And oh boy, does it deliver.


Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt in The Fall Guy - Movie Review
Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt in The Fall Guy. Image courtesy of Universal Pictures.

The story of The Fall Guy

In Australia, Jody is directing her first movie, Metalstorm, about a space cowboy and an alien princess who fall in love at the edge of the universe. The alien princess is played by Iggy (Teresa Palmer), the space cowboy is played by Tom Ryder (Aaron Taylor-Johnson, who manages to impersonate both Matthew McConaughey’s accent and Matthew McConaughey’s abs with aplomb), and it’s all being produced by Gail (Hannah Waddingham in full 1980s power mode, complete with oversize glasses and ever-present Diet Coke). Colt was Tom’s preferred stuntman until an onset accident 18 months ago wrecked both his career and his flirtation with Jody. 

Despite that Gail summons Colt to Australia to join the Metalstorm crew with a lie that Jody requested him. On arrival, Colt immediately does a cannon roll stunt – which has gone into the real-life record books, with 8 1/2 rolls – and only then does Gail tell him Tom is missing. She bullies Colt into investigating and not involving the police because of the risk to Jody’s career. Colt, evidently a sucker for love, immediately gets in over his head.

Stunt spectacular with action sequences galore

This is the kind of movie where, when someone mentions they are so good at driving speedboats, they can do it with their hands tied; guess what’s going to happen later? (So much action takes place in Sydney Harbour that you can almost forget Anyone But You.) There’s fights where people use swords, shovels, car doors, and/or water bottles as weapons in between jumping off balconies, smashing through glass walls, setting people on fire, and countless other awesome choices. The most violent fight is styled as a druggy hallucination so it’s not too difficult to watch. There’s even a dog who’s been trained to bite gentlemen where it hurts the most, so guess what he does, many, many times. Writer Drew Pearce and director David Leitch have delivered a gleeful action spectacular on a scale not seen in a while. The big finale, which includes but is not limited to a gunfight on a helicopter, just lets everyone go hell for leather, and it’s so entertaining it’s hard to explain. 

The plot itself is wafer thin, Stephanie Hsu is desperately underused, there’s a little too much product placement, Winston Duke has scenes in the trailer not in the film itself, and the choice to intercut an extended fight on a truck driving through Sydney with Ms. Blunt doing karaoke was not the smartest pacing-wise, but who cares. This movie will make you laugh or die trying, and between the falls, canyon jumps, romantic arguments happening over bullhorn, and mouthguard jokes, it really nearly does. 

Ryan Gosling in The Fall Guy - Movie Review
Ryan Gosling in The Fall Guy. Image courtesy of Universal Pictures.

Everyone gets to have a whale of a time, including the audience, especially the two elderly women sitting behind me who did not shut up about Mr. Gosling’s excellence throughout the whole film. You can’t really blame them; the shot where he climbs out of Sydney Harbour in a dirty undershirt and jeans would have even the devoutest nun choking on her habit. But somehow, Mr. Leitch made all the action and the performances feel ego-free, that we are all here entirely in service to a good time. This continues through the final plot twist (a doozy), the footage over the credits that shows, à la Jackie Chan, how the stunts were achieved, and through the final mid-credit scene that should on no account be spoiled either. 

Plus, the music budget was enormous! The alien army beach fight in front of the Sydney Opera House is scored entirely to a song by The Darkness, plus there’s KISSChristina Aguilera and AC/DC in there on top of Taylor Swift. Bangers all, and expensive too. But this good time has also been explicitly done to convince the Oscars to add a stunt category. 

There’s much comment within the movie about how essential stunt work is to movies and watching thiseven without the second time Mr. Gosling cries on screen, makes that incredibly obvious. For something this violent and showoffy to be as sappy as it is – well, it’s as charming as Mr. Gosling and smart, too. If modern masculinity is about being able to get knocked down and get up again, it’s important not only to appreciate just how much that costs, but also to reward the hard work that’s gone into making something this easy to watch.  

The Fall Guy is now in theaters.

Find out more about the film, including how to buy tickets, at the official website. 

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