Review: Ryan Gosling, Emily Blunt are explosively entertaining in stuntman action comedy ‘The Fall Guy’

WTOP's Jason Fraley reviews 'The Fall Guy' (Part 1)

Hopes were high for “The Fall Guy” as Hollywood combined two blockbuster stars from last summer’s “Barbenheimer” phenomenon with “Barbie” alum Ryan Gosling teaming with “Oppenheimer” alum Emily Blunt.

All week long, box-office pundits have been quick to point out that “The Fall Guy” underwhelmed in its opening weekend, earning just $28.5 million domestically and $65.4 million globally compared to its ballooning $130 million budget.

Don’t worry, it’s still the No. 1 movie in America right now, and for all its action set pieces and complicated plotting, my wife and I had a blast of a date night watching two blockbuster fan favorites of our modern era who are charming as hell together on screen (if you missed them on “Saturday Night Live,” fire it up on Peacock now).

Loosely based on the 1980s TV series starring Lee Majors, the film follows Hollywood stuntman Colt Seavers (Gosling), who falls in love with camera operator Jody Moreno (Blunt). Years later after rehabbing back from injury, Colt lands a comeback job on the set of an alien action flick, which just happens to be Jody’s directorial debut. Can they rekindle their romance amidst the real-life danger of serial attacks against stuntmen?

Who knew that the kid from “Remember the Titans” (2000) would become such a MOVIE STAR in “The Notebook” (2004)? His kiss in the rain has Nicholas-Sparked 20 years of gems: “Half Nelson” (2006), “Lars and the Real Girl” (2007), “Blue Valentine” (2010), “Crazy Stupid Love” (2011), “The Ides of March” (2011), “The Big Short” (2015), “The Nice Guys” (2016), “La La Land” (2016), “Blade Runner 2049” (2017), “First Man” (2018) and “Barbie” (2023).

Now, Gosling returns to the role of a Hollywood stunt driver like the arthouse action flick “Drive” (2011), but this time he’s not silent but deadly. In fact, he’s anything but quiet, cracking zingers at every turn as he expertly rolls cars, rappels down buildings and catapults into rocks for multiple takes, proving it’s not “his destiny to live and die a life of blonde fragility.” Colt finds that his bruised and battered body is easier to mend than his broken heart.

Enter Blunt, who has become a fan favorite in “The Devil Wears Prada” (2006), “Looper” (2012), “Sicario” (2015), “The Girl on the Train” (2016), “Mary Poppins Returns” (2018) and “Jungle Cruise” (2021). Her best banter remains with Tom Cruise in the “Live, Die, Repeat” premise of “Edge of Tomorrow” (2014), while her best work remains her intensely silent bathtub childbirth in her husband John Krasinski’s brilliant horror flick “A Quiet Place” (2018).

Together, Blunt and Gosling mine magnetic chemistry with wonderful little moments like Gosling tightening the drawstring of Blunt’s hat under her chin, or Blunt asking Gosling to roll down his truck window as he wistfully blares Taylor Swift’s “All Too Well.” These may seem like small jokes in a movie filled with bombastic action sequences, but they are the ones that we remember long after our popcorn has been blown to bits by explosions.

Surrounding the lovebirds is a stellar supporting cast of Hannah Waddingham (“Ted Lasso”) as controlling producer Gail Meyer; Winston Duke (“Black Panther”) as Colt’s stunt coordinator Dan Tucker; Aaron Taylor-Johnson (“Nocturnal Animals”) as jealous action star Tom Ryder; Teresa Palmer (“Warm Bodies”) as Tom’s girlfriend Iggy Starr; and Stephanie Hsu (“Everything Everywhere All At Once”) as Tom’s assistant Alma Milan.

Hsu’s sword fight proves the enduring action chops of “John Wick” director David Leitch, who reunites with “Hobbs & Shaw” screenwriter Drew Pearce. His greatest directorial flourish is a split-screen phone call with hilariously symmetrical compositions punctuated by jokes waiting just off screen. Leitch even redeems himself from the dead dog of “John Wick” by having a four-legged friend join in the fun — Action Dog to the rescue!

While the script provides plenty of laugh-out-loud lines, the romantic subplot is easier to follow than the murder-mystery plot (the B-Story often overshadows the A-story). While Jody is a strong female character in a rare position of power, her role in the director’s chair inherently leaves her passive on the sidelines. It all builds to an action climax that lingers a little too long — after the bad guy is exposed, there’s no need for a helicopter chase.

Either way, the end credits are a long overdue tribute to Hollywood stuntmen as if campaigning to create a new Oscar category. Granted, it’s not the first movie to deal with the topic: Peter O’Toole starred in the cinephile cult classic “The Stunt Man” (1980), while Quentin Tarantino cast Kurt Russell as a killer stunt driver in “Death Proof” (2007), then directed Brad Pitt to an Oscar as a stuntman in “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” (2019).

I doubt Gosling or Blunt will earn Oscar nominations for “The Fall Guy,” which only underscores how rare it was for them to both earn nods for “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer.” It’s impossible for Hollywood to recreate a phenomenon so organic as “Barbenheimer.” Plucking two stars from those movies doesn’t mean that audiences will automatically go see it. Was the I.P. too outdated? Did the title’s double meaning fly over people’s heads?

Who knows why it’s underperforming at the box office, especially after such a marketing blitz, but don’t let that stop you from going to see it. It’s still the No. 1 movie in America right now and I guarantee you’ll have a blast watching such explosive stunt casting. Good luck getting Kiss’ “I Was Made for Loving You” out of your brain.

WTOP's Jason Fraley reviews 'The Fall Guy' (Part 2)

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Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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