The Fall Guy Review: Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt Stick the Landing

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the-fall-guy-review:-ryan-gosling-and-emily-blunt-stick-the-landing

Ryan Gosling is probably one of the best physical comedians of his generation. Writing these words a handful of days after the Oscars where, even though he didn’t take home a prize, Gosling won the night by belting “I’m Just Ken” in Margot Robbie’s ear, is to state the obvious. But it wasn’t that long ago when the actor was mostly renowned for playing remote and aloof characters. Think First Man’s Neil Armstrong, Blade Runner 2049’s K, and Drive’s, um, Driver. It’s thus satisfying to see audiences finally come around to recognizing the star’s stealthily hilarious comic timing. (Alas, the epiphany did not come soon enough for The Nice Guys sequel.)

Well, the cat’s out of the bag now, and with The Fall Guy following Barbie, it’s safe to say Gosling has transitioned to the groovy himbo stage of his career. Long may it last if it inspires movies as frothy and entertaining as the latest David Leitch effort, which just had its world premiere at the SXSW Film Festival. A retro throwback to the type of high-concept star vehicles that were Hollywood’s bread and butter once upon a time, The Fall Guy is a lightweight, frivolous, and outrageously delightful concoction that only a curmudgeon would attempt to resist. And so much of its charm comes down to Gosling’s physicality, both comic and in a refreshing amount of old school stunt work, as well as the chemistry he shares with an equally appealing Emily Blunt.

Based on a television series I didn’t know existed until a few days ago, The Fall Guy turns the camera on Hollywood’s longtime favorite subject du jour: itself. Thus Gosling plays Colt Seavers, an easygoing devil-may-care stuntman who between death-defying camera setups is romancing the camera operator Jody (Blunt). But when a stunt actually does go terribly wrong and brings him to death’s door, Colt cannot help but care a lot. And after 18 months of recovery, physical therapy, and regrets, he’s even ghosted the love of his life due to his shame.

Yet when Type A producer Gail (Hannah Waddingham) offers Colt a chance to return from the wilderness and work on Jody’s big break as a director, the stuntman springs back into action. He also finds himself ensnared in a web of Tinseltown intrigue upon learning that the self-absorbed movie star he’s long been doubling, Tom Ryder (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), has gone missing. So if Colt wants Jody’s first movie to come to fruition—which would go a long way to smoothing over her justifiable anger with the stunt guy who vanished—he’s going to have to become as much a man of action off-set as on.

Despite the title emphasizing action and spectacle, so much of The Fall Guy’s success hinges on the casting of Gosling and Blunt, who are again sublime. Both charismatic performers know how to banter and seem eager to recreate old Hollywood rom-com techniques in their scenes together, be it in Colt and Jody’s screwball-adjacent patter when arguing over how the final scene of the movie-within-a-movie should go or via a wild callback to Rock Hudson and Doris Day’s Pillow Talk, of all things. When the two debate on the phone the merits of using split-screen storytelling, The Fall Guy does exactly that, only Blunt’s director is dressed as an alien while getting pensive about romance.

The movie is clearly smitten with a century’s worth of Hollywood gimmicks and gags, and uses the film’s meta-quality to telegraph in bright neon every last fragment of self-aware irony that is indulged. There is a version of this movie that could easily be grating or too pleased with itself, but it is the leads’ performances that allow all the inside baseball bits to sing rather than flounder. It also lets the film skate over what otherwise would be dicey territory, such as when Jody as a woman director spends Colt’s first day on set tormenting him with a stunt where he’ll be set on fire continuously. Blunt and Gosling handle the bickering with just enough playfulness to avoid obvious problematic red flags. Instead their quarrels are mostly rather endearing.

That endearment is further buoyed by the stunt work that has long been director Leitch’s calling card. A famed stuntman himself before transitioning to directing, Leitch’s movies have a uniformly kinetic energy, even when they’re careening off the rails like Bullet Train. The Fall Guy fairs better due to its less ambitious narrative lift, and because the stunt work is still on point. The helmer is able to even convince Gosling to do real-life terrors like falling from a 30-story building or be set on fire. However, it is when the real stunt professionals take over that The Fall Guy really shows off.

Those qualities are what make the film’s occasional hard pivots to visual effects a bit jarring. While the film definitely wins some laughs spoofing the recent Dune phenomenon in its fictional film-within-a-film, “Metalstorm,” as well as how the importance of a set-piece is measured in the industry by whether it’s “Hall H” worthy or not, there’s nonetheless a surprising amount of blue screen work and digital trickery in The Fall Guy. A third act climax, which clearly took place on a soundstage where big name actors tumble around a stationary helicopter, feels particularly anticlimactic given the film’s title. The actual plot mechanics are likewise shaggy, with the third act revelations of the narrative’s overriding mystery falling limp.

But then, few would accuse The Fall Guy of being “a plot movie.” As Colt Seavers might say, this is about doing “some Jason Bourne shit” and then vibing with two bubbly movie stars as they riff about what kind of margaritas they’d like to drink on karaoke night. It’s a vibe studio blockbusters could use more of these days.

The Fall Guy premiered at the SXSW Film Festival on March 12. It opens in theaters on May 3.

The post The Fall Guy Review: Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt Stick the Landing appeared first on Den of Geek.

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