4 out of 5 stars

The Fall Guy is an action-comedy-romance blockbuster brimming with sharp satire on the state of cinema. It’s a homage to stunt performers, the unsung heroes of top-grossing films, and captures the refreshing charm of early Marvel movies like Iron Man (2008) while avoiding saccharine clichés.

Colt Seavers (Ryan Gosling) is a stunt double who finds himself out of work after a terrifying accident broke his back. However, he’s drawn back in when Jody Moreno (Emily Blunt) needs him for her directorial debut. Seavers and Moreno had previously worked together—he as a stuntman, she as a camera operator—and even had a fling on set. In short, Colt returns to work to win back the girl. This all takes place under a suspicious cloud, and of course, Colt must also come to the rescue from the sinister underbelly of the movie business.

This film excels not because of its plot or set pieces (which are fantastic), but because of Blunt and Gosling’s chemistry. Look no further than the most recent Academy Awards ceremony for evidence. Normally, when two actors are shoved together to read a comedic award nomination, the segment falls flat. But even in that difficult format, these two are perfection. They’re naturally funny people, as evidenced by Gosling in Barbie (2023) and Blunt in The Devil Wears Prada (2006).

When Colt arrives on Jody’s set, she puts him through the wringer. She sets him alight and whips him against a rock repeatedly, all in the name of the perfect shot. Jody explains how the screenplay is about a spurned lover, not-so-vaguely referencing herself. Colt says the context will “help me hit this rock better.” The whole sequence garnered genuine and unrestrained laughs. The humour was superior to pure slapstick, and moments like this provided a shot of the in-theatre comedy experience we’ve been sorely lacking.

The cast all pitches in. Hannah Waddingham (Ted Lasso) chews the scenery as an OTT film producer, while Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Bullet Train) is delightfully dim as action star Tom Ryder. Other members of Jody’s film crew provide surprising and well-timed laughs.

Beyond the comedy, I also come away from The Fall Guy with the impression of a director who is both in love with and exasperated by the film industry. Each of the characters struggles against the machine of an industry so unconcerned with the ordinary person. Colt has his injury, Jody gets her big break under the watchful eye of a controlling producer, and the cast and crew are constantly making cutting asides.

Stephanie Hsu (Everything Everywhere All at Once) makes an appearance as a production assistant carrying a crucial piece of information. Negotiating with Gosling, she demands a producer credit. Through small, realistic stakes, director David Leitch grounds the improbable events of The Fall Guy and gives us characters to root for amidst the nonsense. He also highlights the difficulty of life for most people involved in making a movie, apart from the rare leading actor.

The film-within-a-film conceit ties many of The Fall Guy’s threads together. Jody Moreno is shooting a film called Metalstorm, a perfectly meaningless title that could well find its way onto your nearest cinema marquee this summer. Metalstorm is an OTT alien versus cowboy epic, awash in yellow and featuring unnatural monologuing. The soundtrack seems to have been lifted straight from Dune (2021). It’s ridiculous, an exaggerated version of many contemporary films, and The Fall Guy itself reflects many of the tropes that look so bad in Metalstorm. Why question it too hard if it spoils the fun?

Perhaps the best part of Metalstorm is its resemblance to a real film Blunt co-starred in with Tom Cruise: Edge of Tomorrow (2014). In Metalstorm, lead actor Tom Ryder claims to perform his own stunts, but actually doesn’t. Blunt has worked with Cruise, and Leitch was a long-time stunt performer before becoming a director. The Fall Guy now has me utterly convinced that Cruise doesn’t do all of his own stunts, and that theory alone was worth the price of admission.

Speaking of stunts, it’s worth crediting The Fall Guy’s defining feature. The film brims with set pieces, novel combat concepts, and excellent choreography. Leitch clearly crafted this as a love letter to stunt performers.

A favourite scene of mine features a drugged Colt smashing bottles over the heads of henchmen and weaving his way through a nightclub. We’ve all seen the nightclub fight scene: the good guy dodging through the crowd, bad guys emerging pointing from a balcony, violence hidden from innocent revellers, and a fistfight that could be mistaken for dancing (this exact scene happens in John Wick, which David Leitch produced). The Fall Guy offers something different. I’ve never seen a scene that so perfectly captures what it feels like to be active while intoxicated. The crowd notices the fight and flees in terror. This was a hallucinogenic, realistic fight.

Leitch wasn’t afraid to ditch the humour, romance, and creativity when it came to pulling out the stops for a set piece. The Fall Guy even set a world record for cannon rolls in a single shot (i.e. a stunt where a car tumbles end-over-end). From fresh ideas to climactic, record-breaking sequences, this film sold itself on its action as much as it charmed with its humour.

The Fall Guy is the complete package. It doesn’t bother with a clever plot or visual flourishes, nor does it try to make you feel anything more complex than excitement. But that’s its strength. The Fall Guy is pure, unadulterated entertainment, and exactly why you go to the cinema.


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Cast & Crew

director: David Leitch.
writer: Drew Pearce (based on the TV series created by Glen A. Larson).
starring: Ryan Gosling, Emily Blunt, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Hannah Waddingham, Teresa Palmer, Stephanie Hsu & Winston Duke.