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'The Fall Guy' entertains as an action-adventure romcom while revealing movie magic

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

With "Mad Max," "Alien" and "Deadpool" sequels headed for cinemas this summer, now seems the perfect moment for a primer on movie stunts.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE FALL GUY")

EMILY BLUNT: (As Jody Moreno) In three, two, one - action.

SUMMERS: And who better to deliver it than stuntman-turned-"John Wick" director David Leitch?

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE FALL GUY")

RYAN GOSLING: (As Colt Seavers) Yeah.

BLUNT: (As Jody Moreno) Woo (ph) - so good.

SUMMERS: Leitch's new film is an action-adventure rom-com called "The Fall Guy." Critic Bob Mondello says it doesn't just entertain; it shows how movie magic gets made.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: Colt Seavers is a stunt double, or rather, was a stunt double until an injury sidelined him.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE FALL GUY")

GOSLING: (As Colt Seavers) This does not seem safe.

MONDELLO: Played by Ryan Gosling, Hollywood's favorite Ken doll, he turned action figure, I guess, Colt is leaping back into stunt work because his ex, played by Emily Blunt, is directing her first film, and he thinks she's asked for him.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE FALL GUY")

BLUNT: (As Jody Moreno) I need the driver in the car now, please. Hey. The tide's coming up.

WINSTON DUKE: (As Dan Tucker) OK.

BLUNT: (As Jody Moreno) Thank you so much.

GOSLING: (As Colt Seavers) Is that Jody?

DUKE: (As Dan Tucker) Yes, it's Jody.

GOSLING: (As Colt Seavers) She say something about me?

DUKE: (As Dan Tucker) Stop with your face. Stop it. She didn't say anything about you.

MONDELLO: In fact, Jody has no idea he's here and when she discovers he is, makes it clear she'd rather he weren't.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE FALL GUY")

BLUNT: (As Jody Moreno) You are literally the last person on Earth I want to see - could slap the [expletive] out of you. I really could.

GOSLING: (As Colt Seavers) And I'm open to that in a safer environment.

MONDELLO: On the other hand, as his director, she doesn't need to slap. She can drop him from great heights, slam him into walls.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE FALL GUY")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) We're going to set this man on fire.

BLUNT: (As Jody Moreno) You're a stunt guy. We need to keep it super-profresh (ph).

GOSLING: (As Colt Seavers) Profesh is my middle name.

BLUNT: (As Jody Moreno) You said your middle name was Danger.

MONDELLO: Colt's been brought in by the film's producer, played by Hannah Waddingham, because her leading man has disappeared, and she needs Colt to bring him back.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE FALL GUY")

GOSLING: (As Colt Seavers) Why me?

HANNAH WADDINGHAM: (As Gail Meyer) You're a stunt man. No one's going to notice whether you're here or not - no offense.

GOSLING: (As Colt Seavers) I mean, some taken.

MONDELLO: Anyway, that whole plotline is just an excuse for Colt to use his stunt double skills off set, which is fun, though not as much fun as Gosling's chemistry with Blunt, especially when things go wrong.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE FALL GUY")

BLUNT: (As Jody Moreno) What happened to your face? You look terrible.

GOSLING: (As Colt Seavers) You look amazing.

MONDELLO: He takes a lot of lumps, or seems to. In most movies, if you're aware of stunt work as stunt work, then it's not working. And that's no less true here. Ryan Gosling has four stunt doubles doing the things he seems to be doing, and filmmaker David Leitch does a great job of making them invisible, even as he's showing us the army of techies it takes to pull off, say, an SUV spinning out of control.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE FALL GUY")

GOSLING: (As Colt Seavers) A cannon roll?

MONDELLO: They set a Hollywood record for the cannon roll - 8 1/2 rolls - achieved after they'd already nailed the shot because they had one SUV left and...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE FALL GUY")

BLUNT: (As Jody Moreno) Please be careful.

MONDELLO: ...Figured, why not?

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE FALL GUY")

BLUNT: (As Jody Moreno) OK. Swing him around.

MONDELLO: Whether catapulting onto a flying helicopter on the set of Jody's movie, an unlikely cross between "Dune" and "Cowboys & Aliens," or fighting in a dumpster that's careening around the Sydney Opera House, Gosling is always persuasive, despite the fact that the movie around him is literally showing how the tricks are done. Director Leitch is like a really confident magician saying, you want to see that up close? Want to see it again? How about from this angle? - knowing that you'll always fall for the trick, always fall for the fall guys. I'm Bob Mondello.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "UNKNOWN STUNTMAN")

LEE MAJORS: (Singing) I might fall from a tall building. I might roll a brand-new car 'cause I'm the unknown stuntman who made Redford such a star. I've never spent much time in school, but I taught ladies plenty. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Bob Mondello
Bob Mondello, who jokes that he was a jinx at the beginning of his critical career — hired to write for every small paper that ever folded in Washington, just as it was about to collapse — saw that jinx broken in 1984 when he came to NPR.