The Fall Guy: TAG Heuer, Ryan Gosling, and Appreciating the Summer Blockbuster, Product Placement and All

For those who look forward to Summer Blockbusters as much as I do, The Fall Guy was the perfect way to kick off the season. And not only because it’s a fun romp with a charming cast, or that it features one of TAG Heuer’s coolest new-ish releases, but more so because it draws attention to movie making with an emphasis on the stunt teams who are responsible for a lot of the love that we have for movies. For years folks have been pushing for The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to add Oscar categories to honor stunt teams and performers. David Leitch, director of The Fall Guy and former stuntman, is adding his voice to the cause with this new movie that acts as a love letter to stunt performers. 

Colt Seavers (Ryan Gosling) and Jody Moreno (Emily Blunt) are our main characters, representing the sometimes underappreciated members within a film crew – Colt, the stunt double of the famed Tom Ryder (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), and Jody, the camerawoman looking to one day make it as a director. The two also begin the movie amid a passionate and new romantic relationship, until a life-threatening back injury, the result of a stunt gone wrong, takes Colt out of commission. During his time away from a movie set, Colt pushes Jody away and loses a lot of his self-confidence. Until, that is, he’s approached by Tom Ryder’s agent, Gail Meyer (Hannah Waddingham), who calls Colt back to do Tom’s stunts on a new movie that Jody is directing. But things go awry when Tom gets involved with shady characters and goes missing. Colt is now the only man who can potentially save Tom and his love’s big break movie.

A marketing still from TAG’s Fall Guy campaign

Colt is the perfectly imperfect hero. He never has the right thing to say, is afraid to do his stunts, is more afraid to approach Jody, and clearly doesn’t have a clue when it comes to solving the mystery of Tom Ryder’s whereabouts. Throughout the movie Colt wears his TAG Heuer Carrera in reverse panda configuration. You could make the argument that this might be the perfect type of watch for a stuntman. Lots of his stunts require near perfect timing, and many of his stunts deal with crashing, racing, and jumping from cars. And with TAG Heuer’s history in racing, it might seem like the perfect fit. And some of you might argue that the only reason the watch is there is because Ryan Gosling is a TAG Heuer brand ambassador, and to that I say, “well, duh.” But, I implore you to have fun with it. 

Like many of you, I am skeptical of brand ambassadors and product placement. I know that we live in a world where marketing within a creative piece of entertainment is the norm, yet when it happens, I typically like for it to be more covert, and less “Daniel-Craig-telling-Eva Green-he’s-wearing-an Omega-not-a Rolex.” When things like this happen, I can’t help but be lifted out of the movie. However, with comedy the equation changes. The Fall Guy is not quite satire or parody, but it does point out some aspects of the movie business, through comedy, that are more manufactured. They do this by engaging in the joke they’re making. 


Early in the movie, Colt needs a car to get around, so he’s lent a GMC truck and is told to “be careful” as the truck is “product placement” for the movie that Jody is making within the movie we are watching. And the GMC ends up becoming the car Colt drives for most of our movie as product placement. The same, on-the-nose, feeling is meant for Colt’s TAG Heuer Carrera. The watch might have more airtime than some of the film’s tertiary characters. Yet, it’s done in a very “meta” and comical way. The watch gets a couple of closeups for seemingly no reason at all, other than to let us know that we’re watching a movie about making a movie and TAG Heuer paid for some good airtime in the movie and the movie within the movie. There are even multiple scenes where Colt is inexplicably wearing the Carrera upside down, arranging for the audience to receive the perfect shot of the watch right-side up for that foreground logo shot. And when the camera cuts away and then back to Colt, he’s wearing the watch correctly again. It’s so over-the-top that it’s impossible not to laugh if you notice it. This goes beyond doubling down, especially if you consider the short film TAG Heuer released a year prior, also directed by David Leitch, and obviously meant to be within the same universe as The Fall Guy. 

That short film, The Chase for Carrera featuring Ryan Gosling, produced by TAG Heuer, is clearly meant to be a piece of marketing for both their watches and The Fall Guy. In the five-minute short, Ryan Gosling is seen replacing his stunt man after a dramatic fall out of a window. Ryan gets up and gives a “thumbs up,” which is later used as a symbol of bottling up male emotions in The Fall Guy. A sign of a stuntman being “okay,” yet an action that becomes more layered when his character in The Fall Guy uses it to escape explaining his feelings of fear. After giving the thumbs up in the short, director David Leitch has Ryan tilt the watch into the shot. This time he’s wearing the blue dial Carrera, while Leitch can be seen acting in the marketing short with a Monaco on wrist. After Ryan poses with his Carrera, he attempts to steal it when the props master asks for it back and hilarity ensues as Ryan is “trying to steal the watch again.” 

Ryan Gosling has been wearing TAGs in all his recent hits and media appearances – most notably Barbie where he’s sporting three vintage Heuers all at once and during the long awards circuit earlier this year. Gosling, at least in this current pop culture moment, seems to me to be the rare movie star with the charm and comedy chops that can push product placement without watch enthusiasts groaning. And while I feel that ultimately the same jokes would’ve landed whether Gosling was wearing a Speedmaster or a Top Time, there is an interesting chance connection I reveled in when thinking about the Carrera as an enthusiast. 

The Carrera gets its name from La Carrera Panamericana, a 12-hour, open road, rally racing event that took place in Mexico from 1950 to 1954. The race was so treacherous that 27 people (including both drivers and spectators) died during its short-lived original run. Jack Heuer, the former CEO of TAG Heuer and the man behind the Carrera, has always been passionate about motorsports and the dangerous allure of the Carrera Panamericana led him to create a watch using its name. Now it stands to reason that Colt Seavers, a man whose middle name is “Danger,” (or was it “Profesh?”), and who puts his body on the line for the sake of entertainment, would be wearing a watch built upon the notoriety of others who risked as much.

Gosling, wearing a TAG Heuer, at the Fall Guy premiere

At the end of the day, though, summer blockbusters are about having fun and taking in the hits, explosions, and laughs inside a great piece of entertainment. If anything, The Fall Guy proves that this experience can be even more enjoyable when the entertainment in question is honest about what it is, and even enjoys a good chuckle over the absurdity of it all.

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Chris Antzoulis is a published poet and comic book writer who over-romanticizes watches. Ever since his mom walked him through a department store at the budding age of six and he spotted that black quartz watch with a hologram of Darth Vader’s face on the crystal, he knew he was lost to the dark side of horology. He is currently eye-balling the next watch contenders now caught in his tractor beam.