Movie Stars Salvage a Mediocre Mystery

    The undeniable star power of Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt elevate an otherwise underwhelming experience.

    Whether it be the debate among audiences about practical vs. CG effects, the ways in which prestigious organizations overlook their accomplishments, or various on-set tragedies that have resulted in serious injury and even death, the stunt-performing community has earned amplified attention in recent years, and deservedly so. These performers literally put their lives on the line just to delight audiences, with many of their accomplishments going overlooked due to their duties requiring them to serve as surrogates for recognizable stars. With The Fall Guy, director David Leitch not only adapts the 1980s TV series, but also crafts a love letter to the stunt community, one in which he got his start in Hollywood. The result, though, never quite makes for an effective action-packed mystery nor for an effective romantic comedy, yet by blending these two ideas and by putting bonafide movie stars Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt front and center, The Fall Guy coasts by with on-screen talent and a handful of impressive action sequences.

    After suffering an injury on set, stuntman Colt Seavers (Gosling) leaves Hollywood behind, until producer Gail Meyer (Hannah Waddingham) enlists him to serve as the stunt double for Tom Ryder (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) on the debut feature film from director Jody Moreno (Blunt). Given that Colt and Jody had a long-running romantic relationship, Colt hopes to re-ignite their spark, only for Gail to reveal that Tom has gone missing and the real reason she hired Colt was to get him to investigate his whereabouts. While Colt aims to uncover the movie star’s location to save his former fling’s debut film, Jody grapples with whether she really wants to rekindle their romance.

    Having previously directed movies like Deadpool 2, Atomic Blonde, and Bullet Train, in addition to his dozens of contributions to action films as a stunt performer, Leitch knows how to pull off impressive sequences. What makes The Fall Guy so fascinating, though, is that, while the John Wick franchise, the Mission: Impossible franchise, and a number of superhero movies aim to push action cinema to new heights, there’s a surprising restraint being shown by Leitch when it comes to the film’s more adrenaline-fueled encounters. While there isn’t necessarily any sequence that’s jaw-dropping, we’re given a handful of fight scenes, explosions, collisions, and falls that make it feel more like an ’80s action movie than something released in 2024. This ccould be an intentional move on the part of Leitch, as we get to see exciting practical effects (as emphasized by a behind-the-scenes reel that rolls over the film’s credits) that utilize every tool in a stunt coordinator’s arsenal. 

    Between the film’s opening scenes praising the work of stunt teams (which includes clips from Leitch’s films) to seeing his own production company’s logo emblazoned on airbags used in key scenes, it’s never quite clear whether The Fall Guy is meant to be a meta reflection on stunt work or merely an experience that highlights a largely overlooked group of highly skilled professionals. By 2024’s standards, some of the stunt sequences seem more rudimentary and straightforward, so, while still exciting, they feel like a back-to-basics approach to on-screen stunts. 

    Another struggle that the film faces under Leitch’s direction is the overall narrative momentum. Drew Pearce and Glen A. Larson’s script does present a compelling mystery to unravel, which reflects the spirit of the original TV series, yet many of the times in which the investigation gains momentum, the movie pivots to embrace the romance between Colt and Jody. Conversely, as fans start to settle into the playful banter between Colt and Jody (or Colt and stunt coordinator Dan Tucker, played by Winston Duke), we’re jolted out of it once a clue emerges about the pursuit of Tom Ryder. A healthier balance between the two tones, or even cutting down on the two-hour-plus run time, would have made for a more efficient, all-killer-no-filler experience.

    Tonal and narrative messiness aside, The Fall Guy serves as a showcase of the talents that have made Gosling and Blunt, as well as Taylor-Johnson, Waddhingham, and Duke, such sought-after performers. As proven in a number of other films by Leitch, the comedy is only barely elevated above low-hanging and obvious jokes, but the entire cast of Fall Guy fully sells the material to still make it charming. Whether it be the more action-oriented encounters, the romantic sparring, or the attempt to uncover what really happened to Ryder, the entire cast makes the most out of every situation and fully sells it with delight and authenticity. Nearly every scene, when taken on its own, is wholly entertaining (especially a scene in which Colt inadvertently goes on a drug-fueled mission), but Leitch struggles to balance it all as a cohesive feature. 

    The Fall Guy is perfectly palatable summer fare featuring attractive movie stars being charming, with the romance occasionally being broken up by more thrilling scenes. For better or worse, the scope and scale of both the storyline and the stunts themselves feel more like an extended episode of the source material as opposed to an opportunity to take a core premise and elevate to new heights. Given the more humble origins of the Mission: Impossible franchise and the ways Brian De Palma tapped into the core components of the TV series and revived them in unexpected and exciting ways and just how bombastic that franchise has since become, we can’t rule out The Fall Guy becoming a franchise that can more fully push the effective elements to further heights in subsequent installments, especially after this entry lays a solid foundation of talent involved in the overall experience. Leitch is no De Palma, however, so while all of the core pieces come to life relatively cohesively, there isn’t much to elevate The Fall Guy to be anything more than the sum of its parts.

    Rating: 3 out of 5

    The Fall Guy lands in theaters on May 3rd.

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