Silver Screen Cinema

The Fall Guy Review

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Photo of Ryan Gosling

Ryan Gosling   

Universal Pictures

Rated: PG-13

126 Minutes

Directed by: David Leitch

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Emily Blunt.


The Fall Guy Poster

Like most people of a certain age, I remember the TV series The Fall Guy, which aired for several seasons in the early 1980s. However, my only memories are the catchy “Unknown Stuntman” theme song sung by star Lee Majors and the show’s premise. Majors played movie stuntman Colt Seavers, who moonlighted as a bounty hunter in a series of predictable TV action storylines. Being a longtime action movie fan, I occasionally recognized stunt sequences the TV show reused from earlier movies. When I heard the series would become a movie, my mind returned to big-screen debacles like The Avengers or The Wild , Wild West

Fortunately, David Leitch’s reboot is nothing like those other disasters. The hero’s name is still Colt Seavers, and the theme song (in a new Blake Shelton version with changed lyrics that omit the names of actors like Clint Eastwood and Sally Field) still graces the closing credits. But everything else in the film, including leads Ryan 

Gosling and Emily Blunt, is a massive improvement on the TV series. The result is one of the best action romances in years.

As The Fall Guy begins, Colt Seavers (Gosling) breaks his back in a botched stunt on the set of the latest Tom Ryder (Aaron Taylor-Johnson as a cross between Tom Cruise and Matthew McConaughey) action epic. The injury ends Colt’s career as Ryder’s stunt double and his romance with camera operator Jody Moreno (Blunt). Instead, he winds up parking cars at a Hollywood restaurant where people in the business occasionally recognize that Colt “used to be that guy.” His luck changes when Gail Meyer (Hannah Waddingham), who produces Ryder’s films, calls him to offer him a job as Ryder’s double in his latest film in Australia. When Colt learns Jody is making her directorial debut in the movie and specifically asks for him, he agrees.

Colt makes a spectacular debut by pulling off a world record in his opening stunt, rolling his car 8 ½ times. But his excitement is short-lived when he learns Jody didn’t even know he was hired and isn’t thrilled to see him again after he walked out without a word after his injury. Gail then admits to lying to Colt to get him to Australia. The real reason she wanted him was that Tom Ryder was missing. Unless he turns up in two days, production may shut down. Gail figures Colt can keep quiet and handle himself if Ryder has run into trouble. Colt’s investigation into Ryder’s disappearance isn’t bad for an amateur, and he soon winds up in a hotel room where Ryder is supposed to be. But instead of Ryder, Colt finds a dead body in a bathtub. In the best Hollywood action film tradition, the body disappears before the police arrive.

The mystery storyline of The Fall Guy serves mainly as an excuse to involve Colt in a series of spectacular stunts. The best of these is an epic chase through Sydney’s downtown streets, in which Colt essentially “asphalt surfs” on a stray piece of metal while holding on to a rope dangling off the end of a speeding garbage truck. This chase scene will find a place on future all-time-best lists. The movie also features an 80-foot boat jump, a 225-foot car jump, and a 150-foot free fall onto an airbag. The film also incorporates some spectacular stunts in the movie-within-the-movie Jody is making. Ryan Gosling was involved in filming several of these stunts. The film has minimal CGI. Instead, real stunt people do almost all the dangerous bits. Colt notes on one occasion that there isn’t a current Oscar category for stunt work; this movie is, in part, a two-hour plug for creating that category.

But The Fall Guy  isn’t just spectacular stunt work. In fact, at the halfway point, I noted there had been relatively few action moments in the movie. That wasn’t because of a script flaw. The film takes the time to show the rise, fall, and re-rise of the romance between Colt and Jody. Gosling and Blunt have great chemistry, so their banter works every time. Gosling shows an enormous capacity to absorb punishment here. It’s not just the physical bumps and bruises, but the jibes and putdowns from Blunt. As his recent Saturday Night Live appearance shows, he also has great comic talent. A scene in which he breaks down while listening to Taylor Swift’s “All Too Well” is one of the film’s funniest moments.

As a longtime film buff, I enjoy seeing movies that understand and respect their cinematic heritage. The Fall Guy is filled with meta jokes and references. Colt and buddy Dan Tucker (Winston Duke), Jody’s stunt coordinator, are action film trivia buffs and swap references to other movies throughout. The movie’s stunt dog, which accompanies Colt during the car chase, is named Jean-Claude (after actor Van Damme) and only understands French. Even the name of Jody’s movie, “Metalstorm,” is the same as a cheesy 80s sci-fi film with a slight cult following. The semi-obligatory closing credits scene includes a montage that serves as a mini-documentary on the making of the film’s stunts and a terrific last scene that ties up a few of the movie’s loose ends very appropriately.

The Fall Guy won’t be remembered as a great romance, but that wasn’t the filmmakers’ intent. Instead, it’s a rollicking action comedy, like the 80's Romancing the Stone, with a solid romance featuring a likable couple who have great chemistry. Add to that some of the best stunt sequences you’ll see and some enjoyable meta references, and the result is one of the summer’s most enjoyable movies. Action, comedy, and romance fans will fall for The Fall Guy.

In this scene, Ryan Gosling's on-set reunion with director Emily Blunt doesn't go well:

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