‘The Fall Guy’ Review: Ryan Gosling Serves Up Another Giddy Example of Popcorn Filmmaking at its Most Cheerful and Enthusiastic (2024)

Katie Rife

·5 min read

At this year’s Academy Awards, “The Fall Guy” stars Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt presented a video tribute to stunt performers that included clips ranging from the silent era up through recent action juggernauts like “RRR” and the “Fast & Furious” series. It was a step forward for a group whose contributions are frequently undervalued despite, as Blunt put it, “risk[ing] life and limb” for cinema. And yet, the segment didn’t come with an award attached.

There’s a joke about the lack of Oscars for stunt people in “The Fall Guy,” directed by David Leitch — himself a former stuntman who doubled for Brad Pitt and Jean-Claude Van Damme before moving up into the director’s chair with “John Wick” in 2014. The film is based on the ABC series of the same name starring Lee Majors; although stunt performers aren’t officially recognized by the Academy, their derring-do makes them objects of popular fascination in films and on TV. (Gosling’s already played one twice, in “Drive” and “The Place Beyond the Pines.”)

More from IndieWire

Although its roots are in the ‘80s, “The Fall Guy” feels very connected to contemporary Hollywood. There’s also a bit where Gosling’s character, washed-up stuntman Colt Seavers, walks onto the set of the movie that’s hopefully about to revive his career and is asked to step into a booth so his face can be scanned and used in perpetuity — a key sticking point in last year’s SAG-AFTRA strike. The technology is used for evil here, of course, in a movie that preaches below-the-line solidarity and the triumph of pluck and talent over money and ego.

Love is also a powerful force in this film. It’s what drives Colt to return to stunt work after 18 months of painful rehabilitation in the wake of a near-fatal on-set accident depicted in the opening sequence: When producer Gail (Hannah Waddington) calls Colt, now working as a valet, to persuade him to come back to filmmaking, she tells him that the film’s director, Jody Moreno (Emily Blunt), asked for him specifically.

Colt and Jody shared a connection — expressed here, in part, in a montage of them goofing off with rubber knives and breakaway glass bottles — on a previous film. They tried to stay together after Colt’s accident, but the relationship just didn’t work out. He’s still in love with her, though. And he’ll do anything, including being set on fire and setting a new world record for barrel rolls, to get another chance with her.

The humor in “The Fall Guy” is silly, which consistently works; Jody’s “big break” is directing a sci-fi epic called “Metalstorm,” and Lietch and company have a lot of fun playing with the film-within-a-film’s alien costumes. And the story is very self-aware, which mostly works. At times, the movie’s nods to its own structure — a bit of self-affirmation from screenwriter Drew Pearce, perhaps? — are charming, like a segment where Colt and Jody discuss the thematic uses of split screen over the phone. They’re in different locations, but share the screen thanks to the use of a classic technique — guess which one. Others, like the meta arc of Colt and Jody discovering the power of love while shooting a film about the power of love, can tip over from clever into cheesy.

The film is so self-aware, in fact, that it raises questions about which of its flaws are intentional and which are, well, flaws. The filmmaking here is as polished as one might expect from a Hollywood crowd-pleaser, well lit and only occasionally showy in terms of its camerawork. And the combat and car-crash stunts are great — they better be, given the subject matter. But there are places where the film’s VFX are puzzlingly crude compared to the professionalism of the rest of the craft: Gosling is obviously composited into a sequence where Colt skates alongside a speeding truck, for example.

‘The Fall Guy’ Review: Ryan Gosling Serves Up Another Giddy Example of Popcorn Filmmaking at its Most Cheerful and Enthusiastic (1)

At the film’s world premiere at SXSW, Gosling was very open about not doing his own stunts for “The Fall Guy,” a fact he presented with the self-deprecating charm that’s become his signature. And there are times when the movie coasts on Gosling’s aw-shucks charisma — which is fine, honestly, because he’s got enough of it to power three films like this one. And he’s not the only one with star power in this movie: Blunt rises to the occasion as both a romantic and comedic lead, and Winston Duke, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, and Stephanie Hsu all shine in supporting roles.

This is popcorn filmmaking at its most cheerful and enthusiastic, driven by cheeky needle drops (the KISS disco hit “I Was Made for Loving You” serves as an unofficial theme song), rousing action, and movie stars. It might not give Hollywood power players any more respect for the contributions of stunt performers and coordinators, but it does put a romantic spin on their work that will continue the public’s love affair with the profession. It also ensures that we’ll continue to see a lot of Ryan Gosling in the coming months, which is never a bad thing.

Grade: B

“The Fall Guypremiered at the 2024 SXSW Film & TV Festival. Universal Pictures will release it in theaters on Friday, May 3.

Best of IndieWire

Sign up for Indiewire's Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

‘The Fall Guy’ Review: Ryan Gosling Serves Up Another Giddy Example of Popcorn Filmmaking at its Most Cheerful and Enthusiastic (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Wyatt Volkman LLD

Last Updated:

Views: 5717

Rating: 4.6 / 5 (46 voted)

Reviews: 85% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Wyatt Volkman LLD

Birthday: 1992-02-16

Address: Suite 851 78549 Lubowitz Well, Wardside, TX 98080-8615

Phone: +67618977178100

Job: Manufacturing Director

Hobby: Running, Mountaineering, Inline skating, Writing, Baton twirling, Computer programming, Stone skipping

Introduction: My name is Wyatt Volkman LLD, I am a handsome, rich, comfortable, lively, zealous, graceful, gifted person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.