Film Review: The Fall Guy; Crowd-pleasing actioner is both a love letter to the stunt profession and another showcase of Ryan Gosling’s charisma

Not that we needed reminding, but Ryan Gosling‘s distinct energy – rightfully rebranded as “Kenergy” in the culture-shifting buzz surrounding last year’s Barbie – is entirely unmatched.  We saw it earlier this year with his boisterous rendition of the Oscar-robbed “I’m Just Ken” at the Academy Awards where, without even taking off his sunglasses, he electrified a night that was decidedly average from most standpoints.  And it’s on full display – again – in The Fall Guy, a rousing, crowd-pleasing, if not entirely making the most of its premise and ensemble, action-cum-romantic comedy that serves as both a love letter to the stunt profession and as a showcase to the mega-wattage charisma of Gosling and the equal that is one Emily Blunt.

Playing a stuntman isn’t exactly new territory for Gosling (if you haven’t seen his more stoic, unnerving work as a stunt driver in Drive, then do yourself all the favours), but as Colt Seavers in David Leitch‘s suitably over-the-top actioner, he injects his undeniable movie star-ness into a profession that’s all about being essentially invisible and setting up his actor to look better.  The movie star to Colt’s stuntman is Tom Ryder (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), an action staple whose popularity would rival that of Tom Cruise, who, when we meet them on the set of their latest vehicle, is unhappy that Colt’s face is visible in the latest footage.

Colt should care what the insecure Tom has to say, but he knows his place in the studio food chain.  Plus, this latest set allows him to flirt shamelessly with Jody Moreno (Blunt), a director-in-waiting, who’s eager for this latest shoot to wrap so they can take their “swimming costumes” to an island getaway and make bad decisions off spicy margaritas.  Gosling and Blunt make their characters’ banter work effortlessly, but, sadly, they never get their possible happy ending when Colt breaks his back in a stunt-gone-wrong that sends him into self-imposed isolation.

18 months later, employed as a valet driver and continuing to lick his wounds, Colt is lured back to the business by cutthroat producer Gail (Hannah Waddingham, enjoying her character’s bankrupt morality) to, once again, stunt double for Ryder on the set of “Metalstorm”, a massively budgeted science-fiction romance epic being filmed in Sydney, Australia; the Mad Max-like film-within-a-film production serving as Jody’s ambitious directorial debut.

Colt is ecstatic to be working with Jody again.  She is less thrilled.  And before we get to the inevitable action-heavy climax, the two dance around their feelings as Colt is, unwillingly, pulled into a mystery surrounding Ryder’s disappearing act.  Gail is doing her best to keep all ships afloat, and Jody is left completely out of the loop – and entirely unaware her film may be sunk within moments – as Colt starts to dig deeper into a rabbit hole of intrigue that spreads beyond an actor merely just disappearing off the back of an apparent bender.

Car chases, attack dogs, explosive action sequences, humorous fight pieces, immense double crossing, and Gosling crying to Taylor Swift (because it seems impossible to escape her) all ensue.  And whilst the Drew Pearce-penned script is peppered with genuine wit (there’s a gag involving Ryder’s incessant use of post-it notes that manages a great pay-off), it’s obvious that Gosling is picking up a lot of the slack throughout; there’s some great ideas at bay here, but they never seem to quite be executed in the manner they deserve.

Bloated The Fall Guy may be (its 2 hour+ running time doesn’t feel necessary), and however unchallenging it proves for Gosling and Blunt, there’s no denying how much fun there is to be had in watching two absolute masters of charisma and craft bounce about in a serviceably jolly genre piece that loves its stuntmen and women with an infectious glee.


The Fall Guy is now screening in Australian theatres.

Peter Gray

Seasoned film critic. Gives a great interview. Penchant for horror. Unashamed fan of Michelle Pfeiffer and Jason Momoa.