‘The Fall Guy’: Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt Give This Pyrotechnic Comedy Its Chemistry 

There are many unsung talents behind the scenes of any film. With action movies, stunt doubles risk their bodies while the stars get all the attention. It makes total sense that director David Leitch believes it is time to honor the job with “The Fall Guy.” Leitch began as a stunt double himself, working with major names like Brad Pitt, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Matt Damon before producing “John Wick.” This comedy has the feel of someone who knows what they are talking about when it comes to action. Explosions, car crashes and big jumps completely overtake the rather slim, absurd story. Maybe that’s the point. We are meant to be paying closer attention to all the fireworks because the idea is to be aware of who is risking burns or broken bones.

It starts off as a typical Hollywood romance. Stuntman Colt Seavers (Ryan Gosling) enjoys his work which keeps him close to girlfriend Jody Moreno (Emily Blunt), a camera operator. Then, an accident on set leaves Colt in recovery. He steps away from the movies and from Jody, finding work as a valet at a Mexican restaurant. Sometime later, he’s approached by producer Gail (Hannah Waddingham) with an offer to be a stunt double on a new sci-fi epic, which happens to be Jody’s directorial debut. Once he arrives on set (to Jody’s annoyance), Colt discovers that the movie’s big star, Tom Ryder (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), has gone missing. The stunt double is now tasked by Gail with finding Ryder in order to save the movie and (just maybe) win back Jody’s affections. 

“The Fall Guy” is Leitch’s most cohesive and enjoyable popcorn delivery since “Atomic Blonde.” The first half is a rowdy insider’s take on moviemaking. It works best when combining the comedy with giving us a real sense of life on a set. Leitch opens with Colt doing a high rise stunt, suspended from cables, providing an idea of how risky stunt work can be. When our hero returns into Jody’s life, the set of her movie is a combination of “Dune” and something Zack Snyder would make. Dominic Lewis’ score even sounds like a satirical jab at Hans Zimmer’s tribal sounds for “Dune.” Colt has to do a fiery stunt during multiple takes, during which Jody’s screen directing becomes an ex-girlfriend’s chance to call him out in public. These are some of the movie’s strongest moments where romantic comedy goes well with Leitch’s aim of giving his former job its due applause.

Colt’s journey to find Ryder shifts “The Fall Guy” into the more standard action movie zone Leitch is known for as in “Bullet Train.” It would have been truly great if he kept it about the stunt world and filmmaking process. How did Colt become a stuntman? What other insights can he give us into all the bizarre vignettes such a title undoubtedly puts you in? Had he stuck to real satire in the spirit of something like “Bowfinger,” the movie could be much more. Still, as an action entertainment it’s cheeky fun. Why Ryder disappears turns into a conspiracy of vanity, which pokes fun at the egos of celebrities. There’s a cute dog which follows Colt’s commands in French as they get into car chases and fist fights. Leitch, who loves needle drops, finds chortling uses for songs like Kiss’ “I Was Made for Lovin’ You,” which is basically the movie’s theme. Colt weeps over Jody in his truck to Taylor Swift’s “All Too Well.” There’s a slyer angle here too. Leitch is using these action movie stereotypes but with the stunt double, as in the guy doing all the hard work for the big names we typically see in the close up. 

It was Leitch’s background that helped him and director Chad Stahelski turn “John Wick” into a defining modern action franchise. So, naturally, “The Fall Guy” has action scenes that are impressive, though not absurdly overdone. They are meant to evoke the feel of stunts. Colt speeding after someone and deciding to jump a barrier is an offshoot of his training. He also pops in a mouth guard for safety. Because he’s the double taking the real hits, when Colt gets into a fight the punches do hurt. Easter eggs are now standard in popcorn movies, but Leitch’s nods at “Last of the Mohicans” and other titles makes more sense. So many famous films were made possible by the anonymous stunt people whose names we won’t bother to read in the end credits. A drugged out fight inside a neon-lit nightclub has forgettable goons. What matters is the choreography. 

You start to wonder by the third act why we need a romantic story thrown in. The industry humor involving maniacal producers and diva actors is fine on its own. Yet, it’s hard to complain when Gosling and Blunt fit so easily into their roles. They have good dysfunctional chemistry. By now, Gosling has mastered his delivery of humor with a cool demeanor, asking for a date while hanging off a camera crane in the middle of a climactic action scene. Leitch also brings the movie back to its real essence with a hilarious imagining of what Jody’s movie will look like when completed, with a surprise cameo that makes total sense. “The Fall Guy” delivers by making fun of its peers and celebrating an essential job in filmmaking. Fittingly, the end credits feature behind the scenes footage of how the movie’s stunts were pulled off. That’s what this movie is truly all about.

The Fall Guy” releases May 3 in theaters nationwide.