review

The Fall Guy review: Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt’s blazing chemistry in David Leitch’s action-comedy-romance

Headshot of Wenlei Ma
Wenlei Ma
The Nightly
Ryan Gosling is Colt Seavers in The Fall Guy, directed by David Leitch.
Ryan Gosling is Colt Seavers in The Fall Guy, directed by David Leitch. Credit: Eric Laciste/Universal Pictures/TheWest

Sometimes the term “old-fashioned” can be shady. But not everything traditional is antiquated.

When nostalgia for a certain style or tone is updated with characters that feel like they belong in the current era, it’s an effective weapon in entertainment. Melding the two isn’t easy but when it succeeds, it’s a bloody good time.

Take The Fall Guy, the action-comedy-romance extravaganza from director David Leitch that stars Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt. On the surface, it apes an 80s and 90s-era blow-things-up action flick with an underdog hero. But the bulk of those muscular movies rarely pull focus away from its male protagonist.

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Whereas The Fall Guy is a stealthy rom-com hiding inside an action thriller. All the action is in service of a story about Gosling and Blunt’s characters finding their way back to each other. It’s actually super cute.

Inspired by the 1980s TV show of the same name, The Fall Guy is Colt Seavers (Gosling), a moniker with a double meaning. Colt is an experienced Hollywood stuntman who often doubles for Tom Ryder (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), a prattish actor who says he does his own stunts but obviously does not.

The Fall Guy
The Fall Guy is really a rom-com hidden inside an action comedy. Credit: Universal Pictures/Universal Pictures

After a terrible incident that puts him out of action, Colt is contacted by producer Gail (Hannah Waddingham) to join a movie shooting in Australia. Colt is not interested until Gail tells him the clincher: the film is being directed by Jody (Blunt), Colt’s ex-girlfriend who asked for him specifically.

Not so, it turns out. Colt’s presence on her set comes as a big shock to Jody, who uses the opportunity to have a public, not-so-veiled accounting of their break-up. Gosling and Blunt have such strong sparkage, their onscreen chemistry is undeniable. It’s the rhythm of their banter, it’s the desirous looks in their eyes and it’s in their spiky insults.

The two are pure rom-com screwball energy in the same league as the greats — it would only be a little bit hyperbolic to compare them to Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. And because it sits within the action genre, there’s a lot of physicality to their dynamic.

When Gail asks Colt to find a missing Tom Ryder, he only agrees because if something happened to the movie star, it would ruin Jody’s first break as a director. He’s doing it for her. What follows is a chaotic mission as Colt butts up against violent victims and a complex conspiracy.

Leitch was a former stuntman before he started to call the shots as the director of Atomic Blonde, Bullet Train and John Wick (which he co-directed but wasn’t credited), so The Fall Guy is packed with small details about the work. Even a throwaway line from someone else on the production, “stunties destroy everything”, has extra meaning.

Ryan Gosling is Colt Seavers in THE FALL GUY, directed by David Leitch
The Fall Guy shut down the Sydney Harbour Bridge during filming. Credit: Universal Pictures/TheWest

And, of course, as you’d expect from Leitch, the action set pieces are colossal. Filmed in Sydney to actually be Sydney, Leitch sent Gosling (and his stunt doubles) speeding down the Harbour Bridge on the back of a garbage truck, broke the world record for the number of cannon rolls (car flips in mid-air), and staged a raucous hand-to-hand scene in a Pyrmont warehouse conversion.

Plus, there was the harbour boat chase with the Opera House shining in the background. A far more effective use of incorporating the city than the genuinely awful Sydney Sweeney and Glen Powell movie (calling it a rom-com is an insult to rom-coms) Anyone But You which used many of the same locations.

And Gosling is in his peak goofy charisma era, playing a character that can be the action hero and cry to Taylor Swift songs. He also has no qualms about dialling up the slapstick silliness to make a scene play better. Colt is not a performative tough guy, he does what he does because he wants Jody to fulfil her career ambitions. If he wins her back, that’s a bonus.

He’s not chasing glory or trying to be an all-conquering hero or the apotheosis of masculinity.

There’s a lot going on but it’s always done with a wicked sense of humour and commitment to entertain. It’s not the most cerebral cinema but it doesn’t have to be and The Fall Guy never pretends it’s anything but a cracking fun movie.

Rating: 3.5/5

The Fall Guy is in cinemas

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