The Fall Guy (dir. David Leitch)

By: Adam Freed 

Hidden for a century in the deep recesses at the end of film credit scrolls are the names of some of Hollywood’s bravest and most talented performers.  Unlike marquee illuminating stars and directors, stunt performers have long been the invisible secret weapon of the action genre.  With the release of his big budget action comedy The Fall Guy, director and former stuntman David Leitch (Deadpool 2, Bullet Train) is determined that the era of stunt person anonymity has come to an end.  Working effectively as an ode to the stunt and practical effects community, The Fall Guy makes heroes of those who for decades have sacrificed their physical well-being to make Hollywood’s august names appear heroic.  Vaulted by the raw magnetic power of global icons Ryan Gosling (Barbie, Drive) and Emily Blunt (Oppenheimer, Edge of Tomorrow), Leitch’s film is an engaging and delightful escape into the world of rolled vehicles and pyrotechnic execution.

While audience mileage may vary on how much mental energy is invested into the production of an action film, this nesting dolls format of a film within a film is sure to pique the interest of even the most casual of fans.  Saving The Fall Guy from a potentially narrow appeal is the undeniable screen chemistry between its stars Blunt and Gosling.  Their characters Jody and Colt, former coworkers and off screen flames, are thrust together again in an attempt to save Jody’s directorial debut from ruin while simultaneously working to overcome the hands of fate that severed their once tight romantic bond.  Ultimately, two beautiful people, gifted with the ability to present as ordinary in their mutual desires for one another, transform a lace thin plot into an effortlessly magnetic and memorable experience.  From high atop Hollywood’s A-list, Gosling seems to have found his groove within endearing roles rich in self deprecation.  In the wake of generational performances in La La Land (2016) and Barbie (2023), the Ontario native, gifted with the performative knack for comedic laceration, has set forth on an undeniable path of career grandeur.  

The hidden curse behind the 2023 tidal wave that was the Barbenheimer experience is that expectations for the dually nominated Blunt and Gosling now cannot be higher.  As Barbie and Oppenheimer shocked the zeitgeist unlike any combined releases in history, the cynical nature of a “what have you done for me lately” industry may prove daunting to lesser stars.  The Trojan Horse of enjoyment present in The Fall Guy is that despite the need to promote the film through its twin megawatt actors, the movie cannot exist without its boatload of brilliant practical stunt performers, a point that is hopefully not lost on audiences expecting Barbenheimer 2.0.  Expectations of that nature are foolish as David Leitch isn’t Greta Gerwig or Christopher Nolan and The Fall Guy isn’t primed for award season, unless The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences finds inspiration to finally recognize some of the heroic performers of Hollywood’s tight knit stunt community.    

Target Score: 7/10 -  There are far worse uses of time than watching the gorgeously magnetic Emily Blunt and Ryan Gosling engage in a light and humorous action romp.  Part ode to the world of practical stunt work and simultaneous movie within a movie, audience reaction may hinge on just how much emotional energy is invested in a sillier than expected central conflict.