By Alex McPherson

Fun, charming, and heartfelt, albeit insubstantial, director David Leitch’s “The Fall Guy” is purely entertaining – letting us watch two hot leads sizzle up the screen in an action rom-com that’s an ode to stunt teams and behind-the-scenes workers.

Leitch’s film, very loosely based on the 1980s TV series of the same name, centers around Colt Seavers (Gosling), an outwardly confident yet insecure stunt double for the superstar Tom Ryder (Aaron Taylor-Johnson, suitably obnoxious), who lies about doing his own stunts. Colt is in a fling with camera operator Jody Moreno (Emily Blunt), and everything seems great:

Colt can do what he loves, impress Jody, and feel cool. At least, until it all falls apart. Colt breaks his back while redoing an aerial stunt — Tom claims that Colt’s face was visible on Take One — which makes him question his life choices. Colt (perhaps because of his bruised ego), pushes Jody away, and wants to abandon the profession altogether. Jody is heartbroken, and Colt begins working as a valet at a Mexican restaurant.

Eighteen months later  Colt, stuck in a rut and regretting his decisions, is contacted by the high-strung, Diet-Coke-addicted Gail Meyer (Hannah Waddingham), Tom’s film producer. Gail informs Colt that Jody is directing her first film — a mishmash of “Dune” and “Mad Max” called “Metalstorm” — and Jody wants Colt to come aboard. Colt is thrilled, seeing this as a chance to get back together with Jody. He heads to Sydney, Australia, to begin filming. 

Upon arrival, however, Colt discovers that Jody never actually asked for him. On the contrary, she’s highly resentful, at one point taking out her anger by making Colt repeat a painful stunt until her bloodlust is satisfied. But there’s still a flirtation between them, a flicker of the love that used to be, that shines through in their alternately combative and affectionate banter.

Before long, Gail reveals to Colt that Tom has gone missing and tasks Colt with finding him before time runs out and production shuts down on “Metalstorm.” This could be Colt’s chance to save Jody’s movie, redeem himself in her eyes, and rekindle their bond. Thus, the stage is set for an adventure that succeeds most if viewers sit back, let the increasingly convoluted plot wash over them, and go along for the crowd-pleasing ride.

Indeed, “The Fall Guy” is a breezily diverting experience, with pop culture references galore and an obvious appreciation for filmmaking and the people who work tirelessly behind the scenes to make it all a reality. It’s also an opportunity to bask in the star power of Gosling and Blunt, whose dynamic gives the film a sexy burst of energy that buoys a plot that becomes a little too unwieldy for its own good by the chaotic final act.

Aaron Tyler-Johnson as mega-star Tom Ryder.

Leitch’s film tries to simultaneously be a cheesy romantic comedy, a self-effacing send up of blockbusters, and a tribute to the tireless efforts of stunt crews, but it ultimately short-changes all of these threads, becoming far less than the sum of its parts. But damn, is it a likable ride nonetheless.

Over the years, Gosling has proven himself as a versatile actor, and “The Fall Guy” gives him yet another opportunity to shine. His performance as Colt won’t win any awards – Leitch doesn’t bother much with backstory or give Colt’s “serious” moments time to breathe without balancing them with self-aware humor or broad slapstick comedy. However, Gosling’s brand of goofy charisma works well here, as Colt becomes the lead star of his own action film.

Gosling’s always a joy to watch, whether engaging in Leitch’s creatively-staged action sequences (a psychedelic nightclub beat-down and a battle within a garbage-truck-turned-wrecking ball are the standouts), preparing for a particularly grueling stunt on a film set, or crying his heart out to Taylor Swift’s “All Too Well” while reminiscing about his former fling with Blunt’s Jody. Much of the character’s appeal rests on Gosling’s shoulders, though, with him delivering sporadically eye-rolling dialogue with infectious sincerity.

Blunt is given less to work with here – and is largely sidelined for most of the film’s cluttered second act – but she has great chemistry with Gosling. Jody’s a passionate, career-focused woman, but can only hide her continued yearning for Colt for so long. Colt and Jody’s back-and-forth dialogue and will-they-won’t-they dynamic (elevated by Leitch’s perhaps overly self-assured direction) never loses its appeal, regardless of the story’s predictability.

Less successful is the satirical industry exposé element of the plot, which becomes too cartoonish, and almost becomes a parody of itself. It’s disappointing, in a way, since Leitch makes a lot of effort to immerse us in the thick of the “Metalstorm” film set early on, emphasizing all the coordination necessary to craft the perfect scene.

There’s an obvious reverence for the process that’s satisfying and immersive, but “The Fall Guy” ultimately doesn’t do much with this set-up. The peek-behind-the-curtain approach becomes window dressing for a film that leans into extremes, distracting us from otherwise relevant commentary on greed, fame, and AI.

  And that’s perfectly fine. As a summer blockbuster, “The Fall Guy” delivers, chock full of suitably crunchy fight sequences (Leitch’s background in stunts and action films is on full display), thrilling chases, quip-filled, reference-heavy dialogue, and a central romance that’s earnest and sentimental, carefully tuned for date-night-viewing.

But there are no stakes, which sits strangely, since the nature of stunt work involves performers putting themselves at risk for our entertainment.

There’s a lack of emotional engagement outside of watching beautiful people in a goofy lark that’s watchable without being especially memorable. Supporting turns from Winston Duke, Stephanie Tsu, and a dog that only responds to commands in French are amusing, but underdeveloped.

Footage of Leitch’s actual stunt crew on the film plays over the credits, too, and one can’t help but wish “The Fall Guy” paid more attention to the sacrifice and bravery that goes into the craft — rather than devolving into 80s-inspired ludicrousness.

The film remains consistently funny, however, and never boring. It deserves to be watched on the big screen with a lively crowd as a safe, reliable, mainstream experience accompanied by a large bucket of popcorn.

The Fall Guy” is a 2024 action thriller comedy romance directed by David Leitch and starring Ryan Gosling, Emily Blunt, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Hannah Waddingham, Stephanie Hsu, Winston Duke and Teresa Palmer. It is rated PG-13 for action and violence, drug content and some strong language. It opened in theatres May 3. Alex’s Grade: B

By Lynn Venhaus
Its basket overflowing with clever Easter Eggs, “The Fall Guy” is an enormously entertaining action-packed valentine to moviemaking that gives stunt men a long overdue standing ovation.

Loosely adapted from the popular 1980s television series that starred Lee Majors as a Hollywood stuntman who doubled as a bounty hunter, “The Fall Guy” is a fast and furious action thriller mixed with a charming romantic comedy that works on both levels.

Man of the Hour Ryan Gosling continues his hot streak, crushing it as the likable goofball Colt Seavers who is the stunt double for an obnoxious marquee movie star. 

He fell hard for a woman camera operator now making her first big-budget film, Jody Moreno (Emily Blunt, warm and wonderful), but a set accident changed his perspective on what he made a career doing.

Now back in action, his battle-scarred hero journey and their relationship are complicated, so no spoilers from me, because it’s just too much fun discovering well-placed zingers, sight gags that pop, and a dizzying number of slick twists.

They’re making a ‘serious’ space cowboys-aliens movie called “Metal Storm,” and the script is filled with many references to popular movies, homages to epic stunts of the past, and tips of the hat to the dedicated people who make up the proficient crew.

Because of the extra effort and care here, the movie is a fun excursion while getting wrapped up in the action and the romance. – sincere and heartfelt.

I hope that unicorns, post-it notes and a dog named Jean-Claude make you laugh as much as I did.

With their effortless charm and palpable chemistry, recent Oscar nominees Gosling and Blunt drive this across the finish line as one of the most enjoyable big-screen experiences of the year.

You can tell they were having so much fun filming this movie within a movie because it easily transfers into a crowd-pleaser.

The supporting cast is also first-rate, with Aaron Taylor-Johnson amusing as the insufferable narcissistic actor Tom Ryder, whose careless ways and excessive partying are about to blow up his image, and not in a good way.

Taylor-Johnson, who’s been memorable in “Kick-Ass,” “Nocturnal Animals,” and as Tangerine in “Bullet Train,” is not afraid to play unlikable, and he’s a total cad here, if a bit cartoonish.

His producer Gail Meyer, played by the savvy Hannah Waddingham, who won an Emmy as team owner Rebecca on “Ted Lasso,” goes into damage control. She is broadly drawn as an on-the-nose caricature of a domineering Hollywood insider.

The always likable Winston Duke is the stunt coordinator Dan, and he is Colt’s longtime pal, sharing a warm connection. Stephanie Hsu, fresh off her Oscar-nominated role in “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” is Alma, one of the movie’s efficient creative team, and so is Zara Michales as tech whiz Venti, and they’re lively additions to the plot. Theresa Palmer shows off striking moves as Ryder’s girlfriend and as an actress in the film.

The writer and director are inspired and experienced at delivering this crowd-pleasing adrenalin rush of a contemporary blockbuster while also incorporating sentimental throwbacks to beloved movies and television. It’s also very funny.

Director David Leitch, who was a stunt man for Brad Pitt and Matt Damon (those Bourne movies), and directed the vastly underrated “Atomic Blonde,” worked with screenwriter Drew Pearce on his “Hobbs & Shaw” movie that was part of the “Fast and Furious” franchise. Leitch’s transition to director first happened with his stunt pal Chad Stahelski on the original “John Wick” movie. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Pearce also wrote “Iron Man 3” and the story for “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation,” and has the smarts to pull off a snappy story with nifty hairpin turns and the character-driven humor.

First and foremost, though, the movie celebrates those unsung heroes who keep on ticking after being thrown off buildings, set on fire, inside car rolls, and performing incredible stunts. This should help push the needle towards establishing an Oscar for stunt work, which is long overdue. (Side note: The St. Louis Film Critics Association added a stunt category to its annual awards last year).

You may think you see stunts that resemble scenes from James Bond, “Dune,” “Mission: Impossible” and other tentpole movies, and you would be correct. The writer and director skillfully add plenty of winks and smiles.

Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Tom Ryder

In a movie with dazzling set pieces, it’s nice to see a credit for stunt designer, and that’s Chris O’Hara, supposedly the first credit of its kind on screen. Another meta touch in the movie-within-a-movie is an emphasis on the others who work hard in service of the marquee names.

The movie also benefits from a terrific soundtrack that incorporates classic rock, TV theme songs, and Taylor Swift’s “All Too Well.”

With Gosling and Blunt propelling this brisk-paced movie with their star power, captivating story and thrilling stunt work, “The Fall Guy” kicks off the summer movie season with panache. It incorporates everything I like about going to the movies. You must stay for the credits because there are more delightful visual treats to see.

“The Fall Guy” is a 2024 action thriller comedy romance directed by David Leitch and starring Ryan Gosling, Emily Blunt, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Hannah Waddingham, Stephanie Hsu, Winston Duke and Teresa Palmer. It is rated PG-13 for action and violence, drug content and some strong language. It opened in theatres May 3. Lynn’s Grade: A

The original TV series “The Fall Guy,” which ran for five seasons, from 1981-1986.