THE FALL GUY Review: A Rousing Crowd Pleaser

Contributing Writer; Chicago, IL (@anotherKyleL)
THE FALL GUY Review: A Rousing Crowd Pleaser

David Leitch has had ups and downs since co-directing John Wick a decade ago.

While he's always been an incredibly talented action filmmaker, courtesy of his background as a stunt performer and coordinator, his apparent passion for mixing action and comedy hasn't always served him well. Deadpool 2 and Bullet Train both shortchange the action for comedy that's often just as likely to cause groans as laughter, but with The Fall Guy, Leitch has found the perfect balance of humor, hits, and heart.

Maybe that's because The Fall Guy is a movie about a stuntman, maybe not. Either way, there's a sense of joy and love for filmmaking broadly and the people who make movie magic possible in The Fall Guy that invites viewers to feel like a part of that joyous experience.

It certainly helps that Ryan Gosling, as stuntman Colt, and Emily Blunt, as director and love-interest Jody, immediately assure audiences they're in good hands with some delightful movie star banter in the first five minutes, setting up the rom-com plot of a film that could be overly complicated if it weren't so fun.

The larger plot includes a dead body and, as the title implies, a frame job that Colt has to investigate and battle his way to the bottom of before clearing his name. Surprisingly, the frame aspect doesn't come in until halfway through or later, which allows the front half of the movie to focus on building the connection between Gosling and Blunt before moving into more action-forward territory.

That's not to say there are distinct romantic-comedy and action movie halves of The Fall Guy. There are set pieces throughout, sometimes in the context of making the film within the film (a space-western called Metalstorm that looks like a slightly dialed up version of Zack Snyder's Rebel Moon), sometimes in the context of the mystery plot.

It doesn't really matter, as the stakes in this action-comedy make all the violence feel light. Which means it's just as much fun to watch a world-record setting car roll as part of making Metalstorm as it is to see Colt in a life and death battle with gun-toting villains.

That lightness doesn't mean there's a sameness to the action scenes, though. Each feels distinct thanks to the variety of weapons, settings, and, in one instance, pharmacological state of our protagonist.

During a club scene, Gosling is drugged and the film shifts into a slow-motion heavy form that offers up cartoonish sparks whenever a blow lands; it's a creative way to build on an action movie staple without simply being another version of that staple. At one point, a chase involving a garbage truck feels like Leitch and co making a case for why there needs to be a Best Stunts Oscar. Toward the end, a scene seems to ask why we never got "Emily Blunt action star" after the release of Edge of Tomorrow.

The jokes are also refreshingly diverse. There are laugh out loud funny throwaway lines, the simplicity of perfectly timed and delivered lines, and a series of visual gags that often go unremarked upon. Albeit one visual that arguably goes too remarked upon is a split screen sequence during which Blunt and Gosling discuss the split screen's metaphoric potential.

But it's just as easy to argue that the conversation, which serves as an indirect discussion of the leads' relationship, is a way of welcoming general audiences to appreciate something that some may think is basic. It's one of a few meta jokes in the film that skirt playing as too winking, but land because, unlike Deadpool 2, they aren't ironically distanced.

None of The Fall Guy is ironic. It's a love letter to stunts and all the people who make them happen that's earnest without falling into cliché, a romantic comedy with two movie stars in their forties at their most charming, and an action movie explicitly dedicated to wowing its audience. I don't know that I've ever seen a more successful four-quadrant blockbuster and I hope it ushers in more perfectly pitched action comedies from Leitch.

The film opens Friday, May 3, only in movie theaters, via Universal Pictures. Visit the official site for more information.

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David LeitchEmily BluntRyan Gosling

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