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  • Writer's pictureSaxon Whitehead

'The Fall Guy': Ryan Gosling Soars in Fun, Crowd-Pleasing Action-Comedy

As The Fall Guy begins, we hear Ryan Gosling's voice-over narration praise some of the unsung heroes of the film industry: the stunt performers. Even in a pre-roll ad welcoming audiences to the film, Gosling and director David Leitch present the film as a love letter to stunt workers. As a fan of action movies, I have a ton of respect for stunt performers, as they help pull off some of the most exciting moments in film, and put themselves in potentially dangerous situations in the process. Despite their significant contributions, the performers themselves rarely, if ever get their flowers. But with The Fall Guy, stunt people take center stage, and the film does a great job of showing the hard work and the true gravity of the profession. This is all woven into the fabric of a big summer blockbuster, and squeezes several thrilling setpieces in. It may falter a bit when examining some of the narrative beats, but The Fall Guy serves as a great kick-off to the summer movie season, and is a nice ode to stunt people.

Loosely based off the 80's TV show of the same name, the film follows Colt Seavers (Ryan Gosling), a stuntman who is down on his luck after an accident on a film set. He is called out of the blue by a high-powered film producer (Hannah Waddingham) to be a stunt-double for movie star Tom Ryder (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) on a new film directed by his former flame, Jody Moreno (Emily Blunt). He agrees, but soon finds out he has been brought there for more than just doing stunts. Tom has gone missing, and Colt has been recruited to help find him. He reluctantly agrees, and goes on a quest to locate him and bring him back. But as he tries to track down Tom, he finds that there might be something more sinister afoot, and that he's in for way more than he ever bargained for.

Much like David Leitch's other work, the film walks the line between action and comedy. For the first section of the film, I kept hoping that it would ramp up in one direction or the other, as it spends a fair amount of time on exposition and takes a bit to really get going. Thankfully, it picks up considerably once it finally clears through all of that, and becomes a thoroughly enjoyable action blockbuster. The comedy is kind of so-so, but the major setpieces and stuntwork more than make up for it. There are some early stunts that work fairly well, but a brawl in a night club where Gosling's Colt Seavers is under the influence of a mystery drug was where the action really started clicking for me. From there the film's stunts gradually become more and more complex, leading to a third act extravaganza featuring car chases, explosions, and a helicopter, just to name a few. On top of that, we see some behind the scenes footage of the actual stunts during the end credits, allowing audiences to truly see what goes into pulling off some of the film's best moments. The action is exactly what you want to see in a summer blockbuster, and is the type of spectacle that demands to be seen the big screen.

The main problem I have with this film is that it tends to draw things out a bit too much. This is the same problem I have with just about all of David Leitch's films, although I'll admit he is getting slightly better at tightening things up with each new effort. At the very least, the slower parts of the film are mostly in the first act, although there are a few moments that occur later in the film that mess with the pacing a bit. Leitch isn't all to blame, as the film's script wastes a little time over-explaining a few key plot details. This slows things down, and even though the film's third act is excellent, it does keep a couple of major details from feeling as strong as they could have. I also was a bit mixed on some of the meta elements the film introduces, as they sometimes feel heavy-handed, but work more often than not. The writing is mostly really solid, but there are some nitpicks that I have a hard time ignoring. However, I can't be too mad, as the film still sticks the landing, and the stunts redeem the bigger issues I have with it as a whole. At the very least, I do think Leitch is improving on this, but this was definitely the most glaring issue I had with the film.

Beyond the stunts, the film's ace in the hole is none other than Ryan Gosling, who gives a true movie star performance. After his acclaimed turn as Ken in last year's Barbie, Gosling once again shows that he has true star power, and is fully dialed into what is being asked of him here. Gosling has long been one of my favorite actors, and his work here showcases his ability to adapt his persona to whatever project he's taking on. He's a real jack of all trades, and this film adds action hero to the list of types he is able to play well. As Colt Seavers, he's able to have his cool action star moments, but he has this underlying goofiness to him that allows him to feel more human. Gosling is obviously not who one would first imagine when it comes to the lead in an action movie, but he uses his tried and true leading man charm to great effect here, and is clearly game for all this film has him do. Not only is he great in the action scenes, he plays the comedy fairly well, and in most cases, elevates the jokes he's given. This chapter in Gosling's career has been interesting to see unfold, and I hope that this film further reminds the general public that he is a true one of a kind performer.

The film assembles a great supporting cast, although the majority of their characters feel pushed to the margins a bit. A lot of this is by design, either due to the plot or the fact that this is primarily a Ryan Gosling vehicle, but it is still a bit disappointing that we don't get just a little more of some of these actors. Emily Blunt is quite good here, but her character is mostly relegated to just being the love interest. She does get some great moments in the back half of the film, and she and Gosling play off each other very well. I kind of wish she had more to do, but I do like what she brings to the table. Aaron Taylor-Johnson is absent for much of the film, but he makes his scenes count. He effortlessly slides into the airheaded, egotistic persona of a hard-partying celebrity, and is rather funny to boot. Taylor-Johnson is one of those performers that has been getting better and better over the years, and this is one of my favorite turns of his from the past few years. Hannah Waddingham is solid as well, playing both the scheming and smarmy aspects of her role rather nicely. She does feel a bit over the top at times, but it works for the film 9 times out of 10. My favorite performance outside of Gosling has to be none other than Winston Duke. Duke plays a stunt coordinator and an old friend of Colt's, and he has such a warm, charming presence in the film. He and Gosling play off each other so well that it made me wish the film was more of a buddy comedy starring the two. Every time he shows up, I was glad to see him, and a sequence where he helps Colt track down some info is one of my favorite stretches of the whole film. I do wish that there was more of the supporting players in the film, but they at least do the best with what they get.

The Fall Guy might struggle a bit when it comes to its storytelling, but it more than makes up for it with its stunts and Ryan Gosling's fantastic performance. It fits the bill of what a good summer blockbuster should be: fun, enjoyable, and full of spectacle. I can't deny that I have my issues with it, and some of them did keep the film from soaring as high as it could have, but it is such a blast for the most part that I can't complain too much. It does stumble with its pacing and certain writing choices, but if you're looking for a fun, action-packed blockbuster this summer, The Fall Guy should definitely scratch that itch.

Rating: 3.5/5

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