The Fall Guy Is Full-Gear Popcorn Entertainment at Its Finest

David Leitch’s fun-filled love letter to stunt work is everything you want it to be.

Universal Pictures
Inverse Reviews

David Leitch boasts a storied stuntman career dating back decades. Beyond being a stunt double for Brad Pitt and Jean-Claude Van Damme, Leitch and his John Wick co-director Chad Stahelski have worked together under their action design production company 87Eleven since 1997. Suffice it to say, Leitch was the right choice to direct 2024’s The Fall Guy, a Ryan Gosling-led reboot of the 1980s Lee Majors TV show that reimagines it as a fun-filled, fun-loving love letter to the undervalued stunt performance profession. It’s full-gear popcorn entertainment that only someone wholly passionate about stunt work could deliver.

Gosling stars as action choreographer and stuntman extraordinaire Colt Seavers, the once full-time stunt double for megastar actor Tom Ryder (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). Seavers has been missing in action since a nasty skyscraper stunt that left his back and psyche broken, but a call from an old friend, superproducer Gail (Hannah Waddingham), begs for his return. Ryder’s gone missing from the set of Metal Storm, a sci-fi epic filming in Sydney, and Gail needs Seavers’ help to save the production and locate Ryder. The catch? Metal Storm’s director is Jody Moreno (Emily Blunt), first-time filmmaker and Seavers’ ex-girlfriend before the whole injury depression spiral.

The Fall Guy is never better than when Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt are trading barbs.

Universal Pictures

Let me get the obvious out of the way: The Fall Guy delivers on its action promises. Leitch and Gosling mentioned, during their pre-screening introduction at South by Southwest, how they tried to anticipate audience reactions while filming, thinking of ways to push further than expectations. That leads to memorable fight choreography in heightened situations, like Seavers’ rescue mission to save Ryder’s kidnapped assistant (played by Stephanie Hsu) while skitching behind a truck going well over the speed limit. Sparks fly as steel chunks surf across the pavement, as the impossibility of stunt work becomes our on-screen fantasies. All the moving parts fit cleanly into place as Seavers fights off thugs while grappling any sturdy beams he can, traffic whizzing by the whole time. Still, if all that wasn’t enough, Leitch adds that fifth-gear element — Ryder’s abandoned dog, Jean-Claud, who responds to French commands like “Attaquez,” which gives the order to chomp on bad guy privates.

That might sound astoundingly silly, but with the action sequence in motion, knowing how many stunt coordinators it takes to pull off such an intricate setup — especially with a performance animal in the mix — you can’t help but feel the rush (to borrow extreme sports phrasing).

Leitch shows off his stuntwork acumen, and love for the craft, with The Fall Guy’s biggest action sequences.

Universal Pictures

That’s the allure of The Fall Guy. Leitch executes everything from katana-drawn home invasion defense scenes to bullet-riddled boat chases by asking, “How can we go bigger?” Fireballs aren’t just piddly flames; they’re inferno plumes. Automobiles aren’t just flipped; they’re launched into a Guinness World Record-breaking 8.5 “cannon rolls” (credit to Gosling’s stuntman, Logan Holladay). Leitch ditches John Wick’s expert assassin tactics and incorporates stunt choreography into combat, especially when Seavers teams with his best friend and Metal Storm’s stunt coordinator, Dan (played by Winston Duke, who can deliver one heck of a clothesline). It’s the little details like Seavers tucking and somersaulting to avoid spilling his coffee while dodging hits or Seavers’ labored sighs before leaping off high ledges because he knows how bad the landing will hurt. The way prop bottles break on set, but in clubs, Seavers thunks multiple henchmen with the same unopened champagne. The Fall Guy lives by its name, and Leitch does his profession proud.

Unsurprisingly, Gosling thrives in the macho yet wounded role of Colt Seavers. He blends traits from his Drive and The Nice Guys performances into an affable, cool-but-vulnerable lead who can do it all — but wears his scars on his sleeve. Emily Blunt is the perfect romantic sparring partner for Gosling, supremely confident and yet coyly flirtatious like she’s at odds with herself, but will smugly punish Gosling’s ghost of an ex, just as a little treat. Aaron Taylor-Johnson is giving sleazy Matthew McConaughey as Metal Storm’s lead (a gold-dusted space cowboy), and Hannah Waddingham gets her licks in as an overcaffeinated movie producer with an ego, but The Fall Guy is hardly better than when Gosling and Blunt share screen time. The two of them sizzle at every moment: Whether that’s Seavers shedding a tear in his car while blasting Taylor Swift before Moreno knocks on the window, or their on-set banter as Moreno indulges her pettiest instincts when making Seavers redo a fire-hot stunt that bashes him against a massive rock.

Ryan Gosling has never been better than as goofy stuntman Colt Seavers, who is a blend of traits from Gosling’s Drive and The Nice Guys roles.

Universal Pictures

Best of all, The Fall Guy is a delightful sendup to anyone who adores the art of moviemaking. Many scenes take place on the Australian beachfront set of Metal Storm (which feels like Zack Snyder meets cosmic Mad Max), letting the background professionals have prominent roles. Dan’s stunt department features heavily in the third act, when their pyrotechnics and wire rigs become weapons against the film’s ensuing conflict. All the juicy drama of Seavers and Moreno’s reunion takes place in front of the not-so-clueless crew while shooting, while Ryder’s disappearance must be hidden from the everyday production members, which leans into the comedy of it all. The Fall Guy brings the thunder as far as action is concerned but is also genuinely cute when it comes to romantic flourishes and largely hilarious when backed by Gosling’s guarded, but honest, wits.

Plain and simple: The Fall Guy is a splendidly entertaining time at the movies. It’s the kind of title you want on a Friday night, with only enough cash in your pocket to see a single new release while reaching into your special popcorn bucket of the week. Leitch, his crew, and everyone involved channel a deep love of stunt work into a feature-length reason why the Academy should award these bruised, battered, and heroic professionals. Between one of Gosling’s best roles, heartfelt romantic connections, and a scene-stealing pooch, The Fall Guy has it all, including a few delightful end-credits cameos you’ll want to stay and see.

The Fall Guy premiered March 12 at SXSW 2024. It releases in theaters May 3.

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