The Fall Guy Is a Serviceable Action Rom-Com

The Fall Guy, director David Leitch’s latest, sees Ryan Gosling as Colt Seavers, a former stuntman brought out of his injury-borne retirement to track down missing movie star Tom Ryder (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) working on a film directed by his former flame Jody (Emily Blunt).

Colt is called out of his slump by producer Gail Meyer (Hannah Waddingham), who worked closely with Colt when he was Ryder’s stunt double pre-injury. She flies Colt out to set in Australia, and Colt has to investigate Ryder’s disappearance while also trying to salvage his relationship with Jody, which ended abruptly after his injury. The result is an action mystery rom-com that sets itself up with a lot of promise in its first half, with a wacky leading man, intriguing but simple mystery, and compelling if generic romance. Its finale is less than its promise, but it still provides a decent level of charm and thrill in its two hour runtime. 

For the past decade or so, Leitch has been a premier purveyor of busy, overstimulating “gun-fu” action after popularizing the subgenre with the original John Wick, which he co-directed with Chad Stahelski. After departing leaving Stahelski to direct the John Wick sequels, Leitch and producing partner/wife Kelly McCormick have shepherded the genre through their own productions like Atomic Blonde and Bullet Train, along with Leitch’s directorial work on franchise films like Deadpool 2 and Hobbs & Shaw, in addition to the work produced through their company 87North, like Ilya Naishuller’s Nobody

These films are all of a type, filled to the brim with complex hand-to-hand action scenes where characters use flashy moves and wild reflexes to take down large groups of nondescript henchmen. And post-John Wick, Leitch and co. have also adopted a signature quippy, fast sense of humor, leading to a formula that has, so far, delivered them decent success; at least, enough success to keep making $130-million+ films. 

The Fall Guy is not a break from this tradition in any real sense; it is just as quippy as most of the films of its ilk and filled to the brim with flashy, colorful, vibrant action. The film is markedly more measured, however, and seems to be far more interested in its character dynamics than most of Leitch’s previous work. Films like Bullet Train and Hobbs & Shaw move at a frantic pace and often come off as overwhelming; not so with The Fall Guy. Instead, the film’s first half is paced almost like a mystery or espionage thriller before it predictably blows itself wide open in the second half. 

As a result, we get more time with the film’s characters, especially the will-they-or-won’t-they dynamic between Gosling and Blunt. Their main point of discussion in the first half, about Blunt’s struggle with writing her film’s third act and how to treat the film-within-a-film’s big romance, is how they investigate their own previous history and whether it is possible to reconcile the ways they’ve both been hurt. It is a fun dynamic, if a bit generic. Gosling and Blunt are both able to flex their chops as rom-com veterans and are great in their roles. Gosling, as always, gives it his all, and is a compelling leading man. It goes nowhere you wouldn’t expect, but seeing two masters of the game play off each other is a fun time in itself. 

Image from THE FALL GUY showing Ryan Gosling (left) and Emily Blunt (right) sitting in the back of a pickup truck.
Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt in The Fall Guy. Image: Universal Pictures.

Similarly, The Fall Guy is not quite as heavy on the overwrought “Gun-fu” action that Leitch is mostly known for. Where films like Bullet Train had action that felt overwrought and ultimately bland with how repetitive each particular fight felt, The Fall Guy’s setpieces are much more varied, punctuating its close-quarters fights with chases and a final act nearly akin to a heist film. It is no Mission:Impossible; to be quite honest, the film’s spectacle is probably its least interesting facet. But the lead performances are charming enough to take the action beyond just its otherwise boilerplate execution. 

That’s ultimately what I felt coming out of The Fall Guy. It’s no masterpiece, and brings basically nothing new to Leitch’s, Gosling’s, or Blunt’s oeuvre. But it is a perfectly serviceable action rom-com (though it is a better rom-com than it is an action movie), with a charming cast that sells its premise with sincerity. We could, indeed, use more movies like this. But they can, and should, be better. 

Written by Chris Duncan

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