Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
Vic Manning (Dave Bautista) is a hard-as-nails Detective out to arrest the drug dealer who murdered his partner. Stu (Kumail Nanjiani) is working two jobs, one as an Uber driver, to help with an investment for his dream girl. After Vic gets laser eye surgery, he receives a tip on a potential huge drug deal. Not being able to drive, he calls an Uber and ends up in Stu’s car. And from there, the pair will have to crisscross LA in order for Vic to find his man.
From the beginning, Stuber sets out to be a modern day 1980s-style Buddy Cop Comedy. It is outrageously-funny, unpredictably graphic with its violence and just as ridiculous and silly as you can imagine. Writer Tripper Clancy and Director Michael Dowse start the Film off with a bang and very rarely let-up over the course of the Film’s 93-minute running time. The action scenes are entertaining and the jokes fly fast and loose. Some of the deep-cut references these characters drop are hysterical, including a nod to the long-forgotten film Simon Birch that had me nearly falling out of my seat from laughing so hard.
But the Film has a lot more on its mind than Vic and Stu’s wild adventure through LA. Yes, they rib and make easy jokes about their differences. But they also address what it means to be a man in rather surprising ways, often jabbing right at the beating heart of Toxic Masculinity. It feels very of the moment in 2019, questioning generational male behaviour and acceptability. While some lines and scenes fall completely flat, others feel very real and impactful. It does not get incredibly deep in its introspection, but how Stuber presents some jokes and unpacks them is rather remarkable and refreshing for a studio level, R-rated Action/Comedy.
And while they are not the first pair of actors that come to mind as the leads in an Action picture, Bautista and Nanjiani have a terrific rapport and great chemistry. They mesh together awkwardly at first, but as the Film progresses, they gel together quite well. While I knew Nanjiani would be absolutely hilarious (albeit a bit too loud with his constant yelling), Bautista’s impeccable comic timing and dry wit are truly wonderful here. Neither one has really been the lead in a film like this before, so I can only hope they get similar opportunities in the future.
While the Film’s product placement is a bit ludicrous – the references to Uber, including in the actual title, are a bit extreme as is camera work straight out of a commercial that annoyingly highlights the beauty and performance of Stu’s electric Nissan Leaf – Stuber mainly falters in how it treats its Supporting Cast. None of them are really afforded the chance to shine beyond a few fun lines, and the main Baddie played by action star Iko Uwais is not threatening at all and barely appears on-screen (but you better believe he kicks as much ass as he can when he does).
Stuber is an entertaining throwback to a genre I still love. Bautista and Nanjiani are hilarious and great together, and the way the Film addresses maleness is truly of the moment. The product placement is a bit much, but I still had a lot of fun with this ride share.
20th Century Fox Canada release STUBER on Friday, July 12, 2019.