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The Fall Guy Review: A step down from Bullet Train

Emily Blunt and Ryan Gosling kiss each other in front of an explosion and a round building in the movie The Fall Guy

You’ll have a good time with the action-packed The Fall Guy, but director David Leitch’s first film after Bullet Train is too light on plot to impress.

Director: David Leitch
Genre: Action Thriller
Run Time: 126′
U.K. & EU Release: May 1-2, 2024
U.S. Release: May 3, 2024
Where to watch: in theaters

In the clip that introduced my screening of The Fall Guy, director David Leitch and star Ryan Gosling described the movie as a “love letter to the stunt community,” and that’s exactly what it is. If the titular “fall guys” usually go unnoticed, their dangerous stunts simply meant to complete the protagonist’s work, here, they are celebrated, and so is the filmmaking community as a whole.

David Leitch’s (Deadpool 2Atomic Blonde) first film after Bullet Train, inspired by the 1980s TV series and written by Iron Man 3‘s Drew Pearce, shines when it lets the stuntmen and film crew take center stage – both those we meet in the movie and those that deliver the incredibly well-choreographed, action-packed feast we see on the screen. From a technical point of view, it’s undoubtedly an achievement – so much so that stunt double Logan Holladay actually broke the Guinness World Record when he achieved eight-and-a-half cannon rolls with a car for a scene in the movie. But even the non-record breaking sequences impress, with inventive, gripping fight scenes that are often filmed in one take.

With the charm of its protagonist and the technical skills on display, The Fall Guy succeeds at drawing our attention to the unsung heroes of filmmaking and gives them the recognition they deserve, all while delivering a fun movie that you’re bound to enjoy. But if you’re expecting the same storytelling creativity as Bullet Train, you’ll be disappointed. Leitch’s latest is extremely light on characterization and plot: sadly, there isn’t much here, besides a compelling premise.

The Fall Guy‘s protagonist is Colt Seavers (Ryan Gosling, of Barbie, also on producing duties), who, to use his own words, he’s “not the hero of this story; just the stunt guy.” When we first meet him, he’s at the peak of his career, as he’s “getting paid to do the cool stuff” for Tom Ryder (Aaron Taylor-Johnson, of Bullet Train), one of the most popular actors around. Colt calls it his “dream job,” and a certain camera operator is definitely part of that dream, as he has started to develop feelings for the charming Jody (Emily Blunt, of Oppenheimer). But just when things are starting to spark between them, he has a serious accident that forces him to stop working.

A year later, Colt leads a completely different life, but the past soon comes calling in the form of a phone call from producer Gail (Hannah Waddingham, of Ted Lasso), who wants him to do some stunts for a new project directed by Jody – which is all Colt needs to know. Soon, he’s back to his old life, “falling” from various places – or, like his reference-obsessed stunt coordinator Dan Tucker (Winston Duke, of Nine Days) puts it, quoting Rocky, “getting hit and moving forward.” But things aren’t so easy. On top of a strained relationship with Jody, who clearly doesn’t want him there, Colt is tasked with tracking down the star of the movie, who just-so-happens to be his old acquaintance Tom Ryder.

A man wears an unbuttoned striped yellow and blue bathrobe and orange sunglasses and has his hands wide open with a disappointed expression on his face in the movie The Fall Guy
Aaron Taylor-Johnson is Tom Ryder in The Fall Guy, directed by David Leitch (© Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.)

What follows is a crazy adventure where Colt does become the hero of the story, but he also has to solve a mystery one piece of the puzzle at a time, with new adversaries to fight as soon as he stumbles upon a new clue. On top of this, there are absurd situations that are bound to make you laugh – particularly one involving the peculiar side effect of some drugs he’s given – and plenty of characters to love, from stunt coordinator/friend Dan to Stephanie Hsu’s (Everything Everywhere All at Once) badass PA Alma Milan and the karaoke-savvy Nigel (Adam Dunn, of Elvis). The soundtrack is quite simply perfect, with the right combination of power ballads and rock hits to make you nostalgic in the best way.

The performances are excellent, particularly Gosling’s: the Barbie star pours so much personality and charm (and a little kenergy) into his immensely likeable character that we can’t take our eyes off him, and he also delivers impressive stunts on top of this. Dan Tucker, Stephanie Hsu and Aaron Taylor Johnson all get their chance to shine and are just as memorable. And then there’s the biggest star of them all, whose role I won’t spoil in this review. All I’m going to say is: Jean Claude – remember this name.

From the description above, the movie should be one of the best films of the year, and, judging by the first reactions after its SXSW premiere, that’s what I expected it to be too. Unfortunately, watching it unfold is not as fun as it should be based on the synopsis, and that is because there really isn’t much to these characters, and to the story itself. In Bullet Proof, Leitch absolutely nailed the kind of formula these kinds of films need to succeed: a blend of absurdity and mystery with a deeper thematic core, where the most unexpected, silly moments entertain you and the underlying enigma keeps you hooked till the end, when all is revealed in a satisfying, surprising way.

Here, there’s a very weak romantic element that isn’t explored in the slightest – and the great Emily Blunt isn’t given much to work with to turn Jody into a compelling or even remotely interesting character. Hannah Waddingham’s Gail, whose role in the movie is painfully obvious from the start, is similarly one-dimensional and at times even caricatural: there’s a scene at the end where she reminded me of Cruella de Vil due to how cartoonish she looks. Though Gosling’s Colt Seavers is a more interesting character, also due to how dynamic and action-packed his scenes are, he doesn’t do much except run from one place to the next where very little actually happens, and the first hour of the film has glaring pacing issues. There’s a point where the movie starts to become more gripping, but it’s mainly due to some fun dynamics and side characters that are introduced and not to the main narrative thread.

The Fall Guy is not a bad movie; it’s just a little empty, storytelling-wise. If you’re looking for a light, entertaining watch, you’ll have a lot of fun with it. But it could have been so much better, given its compelling premise and the talent on display, both in front of and behind the camera.

The Fall Guy will be released globally in theaters on May 3, 2024.

The Fall Guy: A Look Inside (Universal Pictures)
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