The Fall Guy Is a Crowd-Pleasing Homage to Silver Screen Stunt Work

It's not a great movie. But it is a great time at the movies.


Most Hollywood screenplays tell the story of someone who has an ordinary, stable life, and then—and then!—something happens. A bus blows up. A single woman meets a cute stranger. A bus blows up, and then, on another bus that is also rigged with a bomb, a single woman meets a cute stranger. You get the idea. 

The story is about what transpires after the something upends the calm and steady predictability of ordinary life. That something demonstrates how the hero or heroes deal with adversity. It's a test of character that shows you who they really are. 

In March of 2020, something happened to Hollywood. That something was the pandemic, which shuttered theaters across the world and shut down production for months after, and then added costs and complications for years. Then in 2023, something else happened—call it a second act twist—when Hollywood writers and actors went on strike, once again stopping most production for months. 

Just as the screenplay gurus would tell you, this is a test of Hollywood's character. 

For the first time in years, fewer shows are being made and fewer films are being shown in theaters. Yes, there have been hits. But box office totals remain notably depressed from their pre-pandemic numbers. New wave film director Jean-Luc Godard once said that all you need for a movie is a girl and a gun. Today's filmmakers, however, need something more: a girl, a gun—and an audience. 

The Fall Guy, this year's summer season opener—a role occupied by a Marvel superhero movie for most of the last decade—has a girl and some guns. And it is dead set on finding an audience. Rarely has a Hollywood production been so determined to please, and so successful in doing so.  

This is a lightweight, star-driven, action rom-com of the highest order—charming, frothy, and almost exhaustingly fun. It's not a great movie. But it's a great time at the movies, and a reminder of the sort of pleasures that only big, silly movies can deliver. 

The Fall Guy stars Ryan Gosling as down-on-his-luck stuntman Colt Seavers. Seavers was a regular stunt double for action superstar Tom Ryder (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) until one day a stunt went wrong. He was also smitten with camerawoman Jody Moreno (Emily Blunt), but he hasn't spoken to her since his accident. 

And then, well, something happens. Seavers is called to Australia by Ryder's producer, Gail Meyer, to work on a big-budget new movie directed by Moreno and starring Ryder. There's just one problem: Ryder has gone missing. 

As Seavers and Moreno try to reconnect—which mostly involves her forcing him to repeatedly set himself on fire and get slammed into a rock—Meyer puts Seavers on the trail of the movie's missing star. It's part mystery, part action romp, and part surprisingly sweet and old-fashioned rom-com, complete with comic relief best friends and a karaoke scene. 

The romance isn't terribly developed, but the chemistry between Gosling and Blunt is so potent I half expect the Food and Drug Administration to announce that it's set to be regulated. Gosling, in particular, has the high-intensity charm of the biggest movie stars of the 1980s and 1990s. He's always been charming, but in The Fall Guy, he's irresistible. 

It helps, of course, that the movie sends him on a string of zany escapades, all of which allow him to show off his fictional stuntman skills. Directed by David Leitch, a former stuntman and the co-director of John Wick, the movie is designed as a tribute to the often invisible work of the stunt profession, complete with multiple references to the sad fact that there's no Academy Award for stunt work. The story proceeds through a variety of stunt types, from sword fights to vehicle crashes to boat jumps to falls from great heights, as if taking viewers on a guided tour of the stunt profession's greatest hits. 

But this is no inert museum piece. It's lively and funny throughout, if somewhat shaggy and predictable toward the end. And with Gosling in the lead, it's a reminder of the power of big-screen charisma, the widespread appeal of beautiful people projected on a giant screen.  

Is there anything deeper here? Not really. The Fall Guy is scrupulously lightweight. If this easygoing, hard-working movie has a message, it's in the form of rah-rah industry cheerleading: The movies are back! Well, maybe. For all its contemporary big-screen bravado, The Fall Guy still comes across as more than a little bit nostalgic for a time when movies were, you know, movies—crowd-pleasing spectacles full of glitzy, glamorous people doing their damndest to entertain. 

Still, as someone who also remembers that time with fondness, it's a delight to behold. If this is what Hollywood produces when you put it through the wringer and test its character, I'd say it's doing pretty well.