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Review: 'The Fall Guy' has Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt in a Fast-Talking Action-Com

: Kurt Loder on

What's your favorite movie stunt? Mine -- well, one of them -- takes place in the intricate opening sequence of 1984's "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom." It's the scene in which Indy and his companion, the shrieky nightclub singer Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw), are making a frantic exit from a club owned by Shanghai crime lord Lao Che. Lacking any other means of egress, they're compelled to leap out a window (accompanied by a gigantic bronze gong), and the stunt is launched. Falling toward a narrow alley, Indy and Willie rip through a series of canvas awnings -- four in all -- before bouncing over onto a fifth one on the other side of the street, from which they drop into the back seat of a just-arrived Duesenberg convertible driven by a little kid called Short Round (Ke Huy Quan). He advises them to hold on to their potatoes.

This sequence, which lasts about 35 seconds, is an unforgettable demonstration of great pictorial design and stunt execution. It shows director Steven Spielberg operating at the peak of his gifts, and two top-rank stunt artists -- the celebrated Vic Armstrong and his similarly expert wife, Wendy Leech -- embodying the director's vision. But Armstrong and Leech, as eagerly sought as their services were at the time (they also appeared in various "Superman," "Star Wars" and Bond films), are as often as not noted in IMDb cast lists as -- and I quote -- "uncredited."

A movement has been building for years now to give stunt artists their due. After all, what would action movies be without them? (They'd be radio.) Now comes a fond nod to these undervalued craftspeople in director David Leitch's new movie, "The Fall Guy," which has the distinction of being both an orgy of top-tier stunt work and a sweet, fast-talking romcom. If this unusual combination doesn't quite jell, well, there are worse things clogging the multiplexes at the moment.

The picture is loosely based on an '80s TV series that starred Lee Majors (who makes a cameo in this film) as a stuntman who moonlights as a bounty hunter. Here, Ryan Gosling is the stunt guy, Colt Seavers, but there's no moonlighting involved. Colt is returning to the movie business after a long layoff recuperating from a stunt-related back injury. He's summoned by producer Gail Meyer (Hannah Waddingham) to Sydney, Australia, where his ex-girlfriend, cinematographer Jody Moreno (Emily Blunt), whom he ghosted after being sidelined, is making her first movie as a director. It's a sci-fi action feature called "Metalstorm," and it stars the egotistical Tom Ryder (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), with whom Colt has long been teamed as a stunt double. Colt quickly finds himself back in harness, being set on fire, slammed against boulders and strapped into stunt cars doing "cannon rolls" down a beach. (One of these tricky maneuvers, pulled off by production stuntman Logan Holladay, set a new Guinness World Record of eight-and-a-half flips.)

Unfortunately, Jody, still angry at Colt about their awkward breakup, isn't happy that he's been hired to work on the film. Complicating matters, her star, Ryder, has mysteriously disappeared. Colt, of course, is soon assigned to find him.

The heartbeat of the movie is the spirited, quippy chemistry between Blunt and Gosling, who are a classic screwball couple. (It's puzzling that some of their zingiest interactions were left in the trailer and never made it into the picture itself.)

 

Then there's all the action: Given the director, it's unsurprisingly top-notch. Leitch, a producer and co-director in the "John Wick" franchise and a longtime stunt double for Brad Pitt, spares no effort (or, presumably, expense) in burning through pyro, staging space-alien beach battles and calling in helicopters to juice up the spectacle. But if the movie feels a little too long (at 126 minutes), it's because the action eventually overwhelms the perfectly crafted romance. It's kind of heartbreaking, actually.

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Kurt Loder is the film critic for Reason Online. To find out more about Kurt Loder and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators website at www.creators.com.

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