‘The Fall Guy’ Delivers Action, Comedy, and Romance with Charismatic Stars

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One of the worst movie sins is when a comedy fails to at least match the natural charisma of its stars. Not all actors are capable of being effortlessly witty without a tightly crafted script and some excellent direction and editing. But Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt seem, at least from afar, adept at that game. Just look at their charming press tour for “The Fall Guy.” Theirs is the kind of fun banter that can be a little worrisome — what if their riffing is better than the movie?

It comes as a great relief, then, that “The Fall Guy ” lives up to its promise. Here is a delightful blend of action, comedy and romance that will make the audience feel like a Hollywood insider for a few hours (although there are perhaps one too many jokes about Comic-Con and Hall H).

Loosely based on the 1980s Lee Majors television series about a stuntman who made some extra cash on the side bounty hunting, Gosling takes up the mantle of said stunt guy, Colt Seavers.

Colt is a workaday stunt performer and longtime go-to for a major movie star, Tom Ryder (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). Tom is the kind deeply egotistical and self-conscious A-lister who tells everyone he does his own stunts and worries out loud about Colt’s jawline being distractingly softer than his. I think the word potato is thrown around as a descriptor. Taylor-Johnson has quite a bit of fun playing up all his eccentricities that you hope, and fear, are at least somewhat inspired by real horror stories of stars behaving badly.

The film comes from director David Leitch, the Brad Pitt stuntman and stunt coordinator who helped bring “John Wick” to the world and directed “Atomic Blonde” and “Bullet Train.” He’s a guy who not only has the vision and know-how to bring the best in stunts to films and make them pop, but also has a vested interest in putting them in the spotlight. Forget the Oscar, how about just any acknowledgement? Perhaps “The Fall Guy” is just one tiny step on the path to making audiences more aware of some of the behind-the-scenes people who really make movies better and risk it all to do so.

It’s revealing that the movie starts with Colt suffering a terrible injury on a set. The stunt that goes wrong is one he’s just done and doesn’t seem remotely nervous about. The film cuts to his recovery and semi-reclusive retirement until he gets a call from Tom’s producer Gail (a delightfully over-the-top Hannah Waddingham) begging Colt to come back for a new film. They need him, she pleads, as does his longtime crush Jody (Emily Blunt) who is making her directorial debut. She waits to inform him that Tom is missing and he’s the one who has to find him. On the quest, Colt encounters tough-guy goons, enablers, a sword-wielding actress, and a dead body on ice that all lead up to something big and rotten. And like a selfless stunt guy, he does it all out of sight of Jody – trying his best to save her movie without giving her something extra to worry about. Nothing about it is particularly plausible, but it’s not hard to get on board for the ride and much of that is because of Gosling.

While he’s not quite underappreciated for his comedic timing, especially after “Barbie,” it’s fun to get to see him really embrace and lean into the goofiness whether it’s crying and singing along to Taylor Swift’s “All Too Well” or quoting movie lines to his stunt coordinator pal (Winston Duke, always a good addition) in the midst of an actual fight.

There is something very juvenile and sweet about Jody and Colt’s will-they-won’t-they romance, with its mix of attraction, banter, misunderstandings and hurt feelings. It was a genius stroke to cast these two opposite each other and it leaves you wanting more scenes with the two.

Working with a script from Drew Pearce (“Hobbs & Shaw”), Leitch packs the film with wall-to wall action, both the film’s movie sets and in its real world. And with the self-referential humor, the industry jokes and the promise of a little romance, it feels like one of those movies we all complain they don’t make anymore.

“The Fall Guy,” a Universal Picture release in theaters Friday, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for “action and violence, drug content and some strong language.” Running time: 126 minutes. Three stars out of four. – BY LINDSEY BAHR (AP)

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