New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

Review: Prepare to fall for ‘The Fall Guy’

American filmmaker David Leitch’s action comedy sticks the landing in its celebration of the stunt teams and production crews that craft movie magic.
“The Fall Guy” directed by David Leitch, releases in theaters on May 3, 2024. (Courtesy of Warner Bros)

In his nearly three-decade-long career, American filmmaker David Leitch has been a prominent figure in the action film genre, with credits as a producer on the “John Wick” series and director of “Bullet Train.” But he got his start as a stuntman — a notoriously invisible role in Hollywood.

Stuntmen — along with the broader crews — aren’t supposed to be seen. While conversations surrounding recognition, or lack thereof, for these roles have been extremely popular in Hollywood, these massive crews of camera operators, visual effects artists and stuntmen have remained relatively nameless among household audiences. It’s part of the job to assume anonymity to ensure the production gets along without a hitch, so that the movie stars on screen can shine bright without breaking a fingernail or scraping their money-making faces.

Whether a self-insert or a love letter, Leitch’s new film, “The Fall Guy,” is loosely based on the 1980s action series of the same name, and places these historically underappreciated roles in the cinematic landscape and excitement they create on screen at the forefront of the action.

The film’s protagonist is Colt Seavers (Ryan Gosling), a stunt double for prima-donna action star Tom Ryder (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). Colt was sidelined from the industry for over a year after an on-set mishap nearly cost his life. A bruised ego and dinky valet job lead Colt to ghost Jody Moreno (Emily Blunt), his camera operator girlfriend — until he’s called back to work on her epic directorial debut. The job initially seems like an opportunity to gallantly win her over, until Tom goes missing and Colt is tasked with recovering and returning him to set.

In “The Fall Guy,” the action Colt creates on screen intensifies his mission to find Tom. By day, he’s pulling off epic car rolls or getting set on fire. By night, he’s tackling goons alongside a French-speaking dog and jumping out of moving vehicles. Leitch’s professional background as a stuntman is evident in the execution of the film’s stunts, from huge car jumps and giant explosions to intense stage combat that engages the audience.

Despite constantly putting his life on the line — both for Jody’s sci-fi production or in his mysterious side quest to find Tom Ryder — Colt always has the resilience to get off the ground and stick out an emphatic thumbs-up after each tumble. Gosling’s charisma and comedic timing make Colt a lovable hero, even when his stubbornness complicates his relationship with Jody. His audaciousness and hardness in his line of work are complemented by moments of emotional sensitivity, showing Colt is a fall guy to fall for. He’s someone that can be shot at or thrown into a rock multiple times and still have the emotional capacity to tearfully headbang to Taylor Swift’s “All Too Well” in his car afterward.

In this tongue-in-cheek commentary on the film industry, “The Fall Guy” holds a genuine appreciation for the crew members who work behind the scenes. Colt breaks the fourth wall and looks directly to the audience when mentioning that stunt categories are omitted from awards shows — something Gosling and Blunt pointed out in real life at the 2024 Academy Awards when presenting a montage highlighting decades of excellence in stunt performance. When addressing the third act of Jody’s film, it’s brought up that the plot needs more of a head-on approach to communication, reflecting the issues in the romance between Colt and Jody. The film also tackles the rise of AI and deep fakes in Hollywood in the film-editing process by making it a point of contention in the story. It’s used on set to digitally replace Colt’s face in stunts with Tom’s, covering up the latter’s fear of stunt work and enabling him to maintain his status as a daredevil action star.

The film-inside-the-film emphasizes the anonymity that production crews take on in order to successfully execute a project while still thrusting the workers into stardom. Before each scene inside the film is a shot of the entire fictional team it takes to pull it off, including stunt coordinators, camera operators, producers and production assistants. The real crew of “The Fall Guy” is honored similarly during the film’s credits, which is a montage of the production itself highlighting the different teams and adding a level of transparency to the sheer scope of the work they do.

If your thing is giant explosions, hallucinogenic unicorns, good old-fashioned beatings or watching Ryan Gosling drive a boat while handcuffed, “The Fall Guy” is a must-see. But even if you aren’t an action junkie, its comedy, romance and exuberant love for the craft of Hollywood movie magic is sure to posit it as one of this year’s summer blockbusters.

“The Fall Guy” hits theaters on May 3.

Contact Dani Biondi at [email protected].

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