The Fall Guy is an Entertaining Reminder Why the Oscars Needs a Best Stunt Category

At the 96th Academy Awards, there was a moment of cheeky promotional work for Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt’s latest flick The Fall Guy, with the two actors taking to the stage to honour the work of the stunt performers who are often under-celebrated for their work on films. After the clip reel played, featuring everything from Buster Keaton’s The General to Tom Cruise’s Mission: Impossible, you’d have half expected Gosling and Blunt to present the award for Best Stunt Team.

But as we all know, there is no stunt category at the Oscars, nor does it appear there will be one any time soon.[1]

What does exist though is The Fall Guy, the latest actioner from stunt coordinator turned director David Leitch. With decades of stunt-work to his name, Leitch is in the unique position to present his thoroughly entertaining, albeit a little bit mindless, thesis as to why there desperately needs to be an Oscar category for stunts. Heck, even Drew Pearce’s script calls out the Academy during the film, with characters flat out questioning why it doesn’t exist yet.

Pearce and Leitch adapt Glen A. Larson’s 1980s TV series of the same name, which sees Gosling as Colt Seavers, picking up the dusty Miami Vice jacket left behind by series lead Lee Majors. Gosling is joined by Blunt’s Jody Moreno, a camera operator turned blockbuster filmmaker who is working her hardest to bring the sci-fi, romance, action, cowboy extravaganza Metalstorm to life. Pushing her along the way is soda-guzzling producer Gail Meyer, played by Hannah Waddingham who dons a wig straight out of the eighties.

Seavers and Moreno have a history, with their romance ending when Seavers suffered a major injury on a set, leading him to distance himself from her and the film industry. Years later, Meyer gives him a buzz, requesting he urgently make his way down under for the film shoot taking place in Sydney, hoodwinking him in to believe that Moreno had also requested his presence. When Seavers arrives in Sydney, it’s revealed that he has instead been dragged to Australia to help find the missing lead actor of Metalstorm, screen legend Tom Ryder (a suitably ditzy Aaron Taylor-Johnson).

The plot, for what it is, acts as a coat hanger for the impressive, and occasionally jaw-dropping, action to take place against a backdrop of well telegraphed romance and middling plot twists that stick out like the sails of the Sydney Opera House. Ever the showman, Leitch knows we’re not here for the plot, and in turn, loads up The Fall Guy with a smorgasbord of practical stunts that often leave you wondering how they managed to pull them off safely. (Stick around for the credits and you’ll see how.) There are shoot outs galore, Teresa Palmer swinging a sword, enough running to make Tom Cruise blush, a nut-hungry kelpie named Jean Claude, and a car yard full of smashed vehicles.

Then there’s the much talked about Sydney Harbour Bridge stunt scene that saw the bridge shut for two days to get the shot. The stunt sees Gosling skating on a metal plate while holding onto a tow truck with a spade (or a shovel, don’t correct me) to try and save Ryder’s assistant from some oversize thugs. The stunt is visually impressive with glitzy sparks from the metal plate grating on the bitumen flitting into the air while Gosling (or his stunt double) holds on for dear life, but does raise the question of whether it could have been shot against a green screen with the same effect.

While Pearce’s script makes reference to the role that digital effects play in cinema, it lacks bite, as if it’s genuinely afraid to tackle the emerging impact of deep fake technology or digital trickery in films on the stunt community. Sure, The Fall Guy is predominantly a fun popcorn flick, and one could argue that these concerns have no ground in a film like this, but it does also stringently act as a plea for the stunt community to be taken seriously, with Leitch treating the film as an act of self-preservation and celebration, reminding viewers why practical stunts are a vital aspect to make great, entertaining cinema. Continuing that act of reverence is the cameo appearances from notable Aussie stunt crew like Nash Edgerton and Daniel Nelson, amongst others.

Helping elevate Pearce’s rudimentary script is the uber-charismatic duo of Gosling and Blunt, a couple of actors who are so cool and comfortable in each other’s presence that it almost feels like you’re in the company of William Powell and Myrna Loy once more. Gosling and Blunt are saddled with leaden romantic interludes that feel like padding between the action beats, but the two actors are so committed to their roles and the spirit of the film that they make it look easy.

When Pearce’s script isn’t slipping in slight remarks, he’s adding playful homages in the form of call backs to iconic action vehicles like The Fugitive or The Last of the Mohicans with quotes galore. While endearing and amusing in the moment, this reverence for the past means that The Fall Guy ends up lacking any distinct personality of its own.

But again, that’s kind of the point of The Fall Guy. Its plot and personality is a stock standard, action-flick-with-romance-on-the-side, off the shelf effort. It exists to remind people why stunt performers are vital to the art of cinema, and in doing so, it becomes a mighty fun good time. The Fall Guy may not be the most memorable time at the cinema, but in the moment, it is certainly one of the most entertaining experiences you can have in 2024.

Now, Academy of Motion Arts and Pictures, hurry up and bring in a Best Stunts category dammit.

Director: David Leitch

Cast: Ryan Gosling, Emily Blunt, Hannah Waddingham

Writer: Drew Pearce, (based on the television series created by Glen A. Larson)

Producers: Guymon Casady, Ryan Gosling, David Leitch, Kelly McCormick

Music: Dominic Lewis

Cinematography: Jonathan Sela

Editing: Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir

Streaming Availability:

[1] There’s a few factors at play as to why there isn’t a stunt award yet. First up, the contract with the Academy and ABC stipulates that there can only be 23 awards given during the ceremony. The only reason the casting award was able to be added is because they merged sound editing and design, meaning that they had a place to put it. Additionally, the casting guild had been petitioning to have an award for best casting for over a decade. The current contract with ABC lasts until 2028, with minimal opportunity for negotiation between the Academy and the network.

Andrew F Peirce

Andrew is passionate about Australian cinema, Australian politics, Australian culture, and Australia in general. Found regularly talking online about Sweet Country, and reminding people to watch Young Adult.

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