‘The Fall Guy’ Review: Ryan Gosling Goes Pow! Splat! Ouch!

Like a certain energized bunny, Ryan Gosling’s charmer in “The Fall Guy” takes a licking and keeps jauntily ticking as he runs and leaps, tumbles and punches and vaults through the air like a rocket. The actor has shed his “Barbie” pretty-in-pink look, if not his signature heat-seeking moves to play Colt Seavers, a stuntman with a long résumé, six-packs on his six-packs and a disregard for personal safety. Plunging 12 stories in a building atrium, though, is just another bruising day on the job for Colt until, oops, he nearly goes splat.

Directed by David Leitch, “The Fall Guy” is divertingly slick, playful nonsense about a guy who lives to get brutalized again and again — soon after it starts, Colt suffers a catastrophic accident — which may be a metaphor for contemporary masculinity and its discontents, though perhaps not. More unambiguously, the movie is a feature-length stunt-highlight reel that’s been padded with romance, a minor mystery, winking jokes and the kind of unembarrassed self-regard for moviemaking that film people have indulged in for nearly as long as cinema has been in existence. For once, this swaggering pretense is largely justified.

There’s a story, though it’s largely irrelevant given that the movie is essentially a vehicle for Gosling and a lot of stunt performers to strut their cool stuff. Written by Drew Pearce and based (marginally) on the 1980s TV series of the same title starring Lee Majors, it opens shortly before Colt’s 12-story plunge goes wrong. After some restorative time alone baring his torso, he resumes stunt work, drawn by the promise of a reunion with his ex, Jody (a welcome if underused Emily Blunt). She’s directing a science-fiction blowout that looks like the typical big-screen recycling bin, with bits from generic video games, the 2011 fantasy “Cowboys & Aliens,” and both the “Alien” and “Mad Max” franchises. Cue the flirting and the fighting.

Leitch is a former stunt performer who has his own estimable résumé, which includes doubling for Brad Pitt, whom he later directed in “Bullet Train.” Leitch has a company with Chad Stahelski, yet another former stunt performer turned movie director who’s is best known for the “John Wick” series with Keanu Reeves. Working in tandem with physically expressive performers like Pitt, Reeves and Charlize Theron (Leitch directed “Atomic Blonde”), the two filmmakers have, in the post-John Woo era, put a distinctive stamp on American action cinema with a mix of martial-arts styles, witty fight choreography and, especially, a focus on the many ways a human body can move (or hurtle) through space.

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