"The Fall Guy" review: Ryan Gosling takes a lot of hits — and makes one, too

Ryan Gosling in "The Fall Guy" (Photo: Universal)

"The Fall Guy" is many things: a corker of an action flick, a love story, a Hollywood parody, an ensemble comedy, a Ryan Gosling star vehicle, an ad for big trucks, and a loose adaptation of the ‘80s TV series of the same thing, to name a few. But above all else, it’s a love letter to stunt performers.  

And with that love as its guiding light, it benefits from all the things that make stunt people invaluable to moviemaking. It’s got brains. It’s got guts. It’s got a bizarre blend of precision and recklessness. Most of all, it has – courtesy of Gosling, stuntman-turned-director David Leitch and the rest of its cast and crew – a palpable desire to entertain, to do the most engaging thing at every moment, whatever that moment might demand.

So yes, this is a movie that set a world record for the most cannon rolls in a vehicle (performed by stuntman Logan Holladay). But it’s also a movie that has Gosling cry alone in a massive truck to Taylor Swift’s "All Too Well," gives our heroes a dog buddy named Jean-Claude whose commands are all in French, and again and again sincerely defends the artistic merit of a movie called "Metal Storm" in which a human man named Space Cowboy and an alien woman named Alienana fall in love despite the epic space war brewing all around them. 

It’s not perfect, but it’s a hoot. And it’s your must-watch movie of the weekend.

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About "The Fall Guy": He’s Stunt Ken, anywhere else he’d be a 10

"The Fall Guy" follows Colt Seavers (Gosling), a highly regarded stuntman who works primarily as the double for insufferable Hollywood star Tom Ryder (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). When we meet him, he’s flying high both literally and figuratively, falling in love with cameraperson and aspiring director Jody Moreno (Emily Blunt) and planning to head off to a beach somewhere with her just as soon as he finishes this one reshoot – a gasp-inducing fall of hundreds of feet. What could go wrong?

Emily Blunt in "The Fall Guy." (Photo: Universal)

Obviously, something does, and 18 months later, Seavers is working as a valet parking attendant and pining for Jody, whose attempts to support her paramour went nowhere when the depressed Seavers shut her out while recovering from his injury. But like "John Wick" before him – the movie that gave Leitch his start as a producer and uncredited co-director – just when Colt thinks he’s out of the game, someone from his old life is determined to drag him back in. 

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That person is Gail Meyer ("Ted Lasso" star Hannah Waddingham), Ryder’s producer, who calls him and says she desperately needs him to fly to Australia or they won’t be able to finish "Metal Storm," and by the way, Jody asked for him specifically. But that’s news to Jody, and when a jet-lagged Colt corners Gail – having already performed that record-breaking series of cannon rolls – she confesses that in fast she needs him to find Ryder, who’s mixed up with some unsavory types and has disappeared. 

From there, chaos ensues. Cars chase other cars. Things blow up. Boats jump through flames. Jean-Claude the dog has many commands issued to him in French. And Jody and Colt circle each other, talking about everything but the fact that they still want to smooch each other a lot. 

See "The Fall Guy" for: great action, good jokes and a marvelous leading man

As directed by Leitch, the worst you can say of "The Fall Guy" is that it has a tendency to underline its own good qualities in a way that ever-so-slightly diminishes them. Jean-Claude the dog is riding in the car? Buckle him in. Good. But then Leitch has Gosling cover the dog’s eyes when something scary is happening, and gives the dog perhaps a few reaction shots too many, and the pure, goofy charm of the seatbelt moment sours somewhat.

But as far as overarching flaws go, overenthusiasm is a great one for a film to have. And while it’s a flaw, it’s also an asset, especially when stars like Gosling and Blunt are on hand to keep the relationships honest, all while they've got the charm turned up to 11.

 "The Fall Guy" is a lot of movie, an adrenaline-laced torrent of fun and flame. The stunts, unsurprisingly, are excellent, and shot with gratifying clarity; no dizzying Marvel-esque swirling or shaky handheld camerawork here. They are extensive, ambitious and inventive – a car chase involving Ryder’s kidnapped assistant ("Everything Everywhere All At Once" standout Stephanie Hsu) is a particular highlight, as is a battle that pits Colt and his best friend and stunt coordinator Dan ("Black Panther" star Winston Duke), armed with prop weapons, against some scary henchmen and their very real weapons. 

Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt in "The Fall Guy." (Photo: Universal)

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That overzealousness is also found in the storytelling (so many twists!), the production and costume design, the sound and score, and is even shared by the characters themselves. A tipsy Jody belting out Phil Collins’ "Against All Odds" to let her broken-hearted flag fly comes to mind, especially as her karaoke moment underscores that aforementioned wild car chase. And there’s that Taylor Swift moment, which, for all the film’s shoot-em-up and blow-em-apart antics, is as close to the film’s mission statement as anything else.

"The Fall Guy" is all about going for it without hesitation – about skipping the VFX and doing the real thing, about feeling the feelings, having the hard conversations, experiencing the joy and the pain, drinking spicy margaritas and making ridiculous movies.

Because ridiculous movies make people feel the big feelings too. And long after the pyrotechnics have been spent and the cannon rolls have been counted, they’ll remember those feelings all too well. 

"The Fall Guy" is now playing in theaters everywhere. 125 minutes. Rated PG-13. Director: David Leitch. Featuring: Ryan Gosling, Emily Blunt, Winston Duke, Hannah Waddingham, Aarton Taylor-Johnson, Stephanie Hsu.