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Fall Guy

The Fall Guy is a Beautifully Stupid Love Letter to Hollywood Stuntmen

David Leitch’s bonkers, self-referential actioner is a fun, albeit flawed, celebration of cinema.

Directed by David Leitch

by Prabhjot Bains

Like the Hollywood stuntmen it honours, The Fall Guy skilfully walks a precarious tightrope of varying tones and genres—a feat that its opening long take single-handedly accomplishes. Two-parts action comedy and one-part meta-commentary, what keeps director David Leitch’s latest on screen adventure on track is its sheer commitment to self-aware stupidity. Whether it be through grand, ludicrously staged action set pieces or charmingly self-referential dialogue, Leitch and screenwriter Drew Pierce remain committed to poking fun at the filmmaking process, and in turn shine a light on how magical and, ultimately, powerful it is—even when the product is so utterly ridiculous.

The Fall Guy centres on the bruised and battered Colt Seavers (Ryan Gosling), a stuntman recovering from an injury that not only yanked him from the movie set but a burgeoning romance with up-and-coming director Jody Moreno (Emily Blunt). Cut to 18 months later, and he’s given the chance to work with Jody on her debut film, “Metalstorm”, A cowboy space opera starring the hottest star around: Tom Ryder (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). The catch? He must uncover where and why Ryder has disappeared. He’s thrust into a shady and impossibly convoluted plot that proves to be more dangerous than any stunt he’s ever pulled.

It’s a story with all the makings of a contrived actioner—and in many ways, it is—but the dynamic duo at its heart keeps its tonal highwire act sturdy. Gosling and Blunt share an almost infectious chemistry, often coalescing into one charismatic whole. The two navigate the annals of heightened melodrama and daredevil action as if they were born into it, wonderfully leaning into the film’s more absurd, campier elements with remarkable sincerity. One of their many highlights involves a charming split-screen telephone conversation, which both mocks and celebrates the gimmicky nature of that storytelling device.

The romance seamlessly gives way to action that is as calculated as it is bonkers, replete with a symphony of explosions, crashes, chases, and inventively choreographed fisticuffs— the most rousing and memorable of which features a prop gun filled with blanks. Beyond being wildly entertaining, each frenetic sequence taps into the danger stuntmen engulf themselves in to make our wildest dreams come true on the silver screen—often without proper credit.

Yet its satire, while certainly clever at key moments, doesn’t completely rise above the tropes and gimmicks it lampoons. As the film approaches its final act, The Fall Guy becomes a victim of its own smugness, hoping to earn points for simply acknowledging its faults, rather than overcoming them. At its worst, Leitch’s film feels like an exercise in stylistic navel-gazing. It also doesn’t help that some gags drag on far too long, killing the meta-punchline in the process.

Nonetheless, The Fall Guy is the kind of bizarre, self-aware actioner that feels much too rare today, succeeding as a bonkers action experience while earnest in its love for the cinematic process. In a late scene, Jody derides her debut as “Just a stupid movie,” The Fall Guy wears that moniker as a badge of honour, transforming it into something beautifully stupid.