The Fall Guy is a romantic comedy with two love stories, one happening onscreen between an ambitious director and a daring stuntman, and another happening behind the camera between the ambitious director of The Fall Guy and his crew of daring stuntmen. They’re both quite satisfying.

Onscreen, Emily Blunt and Ryan Gosling have warm, playful chemistry as the director and the stuntman who can’t stop flirting even as the former repeatedly slams the latter into a rock wall over and over. We like watching these two characters work together and we love when they fight in that playful way that in the movies always means characters really have the hots for each other. Meanwhile, The Fall Guy director David Leitch also uses his fictional filmmakers’ story as the vehicle for a tribute to the stunt coordinators, stunt performers, pyrotechnic experts, and effects artists who usually toil away in obscurity in order to make stars like Blunt and Gosling shine.

They both shine very brightly here. The premise — ironically, given Leitch’s infatuation with the little people who make big movies — comes from television. That’s where The Fall Guy originated, as a five-season action series starring Lee Majors as Colt Seavers, a Hollywood stunt man who collects bounties in his spare time. The film version, cleverly reworked by screenwriter Drew Pearce, does away with the bounty hunting angle and instead recasts Colt, now played by Gosling, as a disgraced former stuntman who used to double the biggest movie star in the world, Tom Ryder (Aaron Taylor-Johnson).

18 months after an on-set accident, Tom’s producer Gail (Hannah Waddingham) lures Colt back into the business with the promise that he’ll get to work on a major tentpole movie from an up-and-coming director who also happens to be Colt’s ex-girlfriend Jody (Blunt). Colt still carries a torch for Jody — and, whether he cares to admit it or not, for movies — so he gladly signs up.

The Fall Guy

READ MORE: The Coolest Movie Stunts in History

These early scenes, which perhaps not too coincidentally contains very little action, are the weakest in the picture. Things start cooking once Colt arrives in Australia (playing itself onscreen for once) to perform stunts for Jody’s “epic cosmic love story of cosmic proportions,” MetalStorm. That’s when Leitch, a former stuntman turned director himself, starts peppering the story with wild practical stunts, and bouncing back and forth between action and romance between Colt and Jody, who hasn’t forgiven Colt for vanishing from her life after his accident 18 months prior.

Then Leitch ratches things up even further when it becomes clear Gail didn’t hire Colt because he does a mean barrel roll. A mystery is brewing on the set of MetalStorm, and she needs Colt to get to the bottom of it. Why him? It’s simple. Colt’s just a stuntman, she explains. No one will miss him if he vanishes from set for a few hours.

The invisibility of stuntman, and the fact that many audiences (and perhaps some filmmakers) take stunt performers for granted, lends The Fall Guy a pointed but never overbearing message. The film’s heroes are dudes like Colt (and Gosling’s own stuntmen, seen in fleeting glimpses during the movie’s closing credits), who get none of the cinematic glory and all of the bruises. The film’s villains ... well, without spoiling too much, let’s say that in Leitch and Pearce’s view, there are people who make movies for the wrong reasons — fame, money, power — and those who do it for the right reason — love.


After all, nothing but love could explain stuntmen and their extreme dedication to a craft that doesn’t pay great, involves constant life-threatening risk, and rewards them with zero credit for their remarkable feats. When a stuntman does their job right they are so invisible a movie star, either intentionally or unintentionally, gets to take all the credit credit for their hard work.

Case in point: Gosling looks like he’s right in the middle of all The Fall Guy’s action scenes, although the film contains so much action — jumps, falls, fights, chases, crashes, explosions — that it’s clear he had a lot of help with all those leaps and flips and dives. Where he really earns his pay is in his scenes with Blunt. Few modern actors can play as convincingly tough physically and as convincingly sensitive emotionally as Gosling. He almost seems embarrassed by his bulging muscles and perfectly mussed frosted tips. He’s humble and self-effacing in the way real stuntmen must be to do their jobs — and yet he’s so utterly smitten with Blunt’s Jody and committed not only to wooing her romantically but to supporting her filmmaking career, it’s impossible not to root for the dude.

Blunt gets fewer moments in the spotlight (the movie is titled The Fall Guy, after all), but she plays an essential role in the movie’s central setpiece: A wild fight and chase sequence through the streets of Australia tha happens at the same time as a MetalStorm cast and crew karaoke party. Between the big action and the genuine connection between the leads, The Fall Guy should make a dependable date night movie for years to come.


It took a little while for The Fall Guy to win me over. But like an old muscle car with bad brakes, once it picks up speed, it never slows down. Its best moments have the same infectious energy as an old Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland “Let’s put on a show!” musical. It’s such a pure-hearted celebration of movie magic it makes you want to make your own film — or at least watch one.

Of course, “movie magic” is something of a misnomer. To the audience, when a film works the way The Fall Guy does, it feels like magic. To the filmmakers, creating that magic is part illusion and part exhausting, backbreaking labor, much of it undertaken by the below-the-line craftsmen The Fall Guy valorizes. At one point, Jody tells Colt that she wants their action scenes to convey the idea “How far would you go for the one you love?” Imagine “the one” is not a person but the ecstatic bliss of great cinema and you have the motivating impulse behind this very entertaining movie.

Additional Thoughts:

-A double feature suggestion: Drive chased with The Fall Guy. 

-Let’s single out the stunt coordinator and second-unit director on this film: Chris O’Hara. He did a hell of a job.

RATING: 8/10

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