‘The Fall Guy’ Stands on its Own

"The Fall Guy" via IMDb.

One way of looking at the new action/romance movie “The Fall Guy” (Universal) is that you don’t need to have seen a single episode of the 1980s TV series of the same name, starring Lee Majors, to enjoy this big screen adaptation. True, the movie’s main character does share the name Colt Seavers with the protagonist in the series, but that’s more of a reference point than anything.

Colt (Ryan Gosling) is a well-respected Hollywood stunt performer who has been making a good living as stunt double for action star Tom Ryder (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). He also has a bit of a thing going on with camera operator Jody (Emily Blunt). But an on-set accident when a stunt goes wrong not only breaks Colt’s back but also his spirit. After he recovers, 18 months later, he doesn’t go back to stunt work, choosing instead to park cars as a valet.

When he has an unexpected change of heart and returns to his original line of employment, he is hired by megaproducer Gail (Hannah Waddingham), who works closely with Ryder. (Despite the similarities in their names, there is a scene in which Tom Cruise is referred to so as to clear up any confusion about the character of Ryder.)  Jody is making her directorial debut with “Metalstorm,” a sci-fi/Western starring Ryder, and Colt will once again be Ryder’s stunt double.

Right from the start, there is trouble. Jody, who felt abandoned by Colt during his recovery, goes out of her way to make him feel uncomfortable on the set. Regardless, there is still some connection between the two, and we spend much of the movie watching them trying to figure out what to make of it.

Meanwhile, Ryder, who has been hanging out with a shady bunch of people, including drug dealer Doone (Matuse), has gone missing from the “Metalstorm” set. Gail sends Cody on a secret mission to find him, and there’s way more going on than you might expect. There’s Ryder’s crazy actress girlfriend Iggy (Teresa Palmer) who is intent on harming Cody. There’s the dead body of stuntman Henry in an ice-filled hotel bathtub. There’s Ryder’s locked mobile phone, which contains an incriminating video that his personal assistant Alma (queer actress Stephanie Hsu) passes along to Cody. And then there are a bunch of thugs coming for the phone and Cody.

As you might have guessed from a movie about stunt performers, there are action sequences galore (as in a few too many – the movie could afford to lose 20 minutes). “The Fall Guy” also plays on the title – yes, Colt is a stuntman -- but someone also wants him to take the fall for something he didn’t do.

While Gosling and Blunt don’t exactly burn up the screen (how many of you would have rather seen him smash Taylor-Johnson?), they didn’t frost it over either. Gosling, who seems to be moving away from his more serious early films (“Blue Valentine,” “The Place Beyond the Pines,” “Half Nelson”), is not only endlessly breathtaking to look at but also has a natural ease with comedy. “The Fall Guy” feels like a summer blockbuster that arrived in the spring, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. 

Rating: B


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