(2019) (Kumail Nanjiani, Dave Bautista) (R)
- QUICK TAKE:
- Action/Comedy: A mild-mannered Uber driver ends up at his wits' ends when he's essentially car-jacked by a cop who's trying to catch a dangerous criminal but is temporarily visually impaired.
- Stu (KUMAIL NANJIANI) is a mild-mannered guy who works two jobs in Los Angeles -- one in a big box sports store where his boss is Richie (JIMMY TATRO), the second as an Uber driver. He's also investing in a spin cycle gym run by his friend, Becca (BETTY GILPIN), who he slept with once and for whom he has confusing and unresolved romantic feelings.
While hoping to get to her place to let her know how he feels, he ends up intercepted and essentially car-jacked by Vic (DAVE BAUTISTA), a cop with the L.A.P.D. who's just had LASIK surgery and thus can't see well enough to drive on his own. That comes to a head when he gets a call that an informant he's been dealing with -- in hopes of nabbing a criminal by the name of Teijo (IKO UWAIS) -- is in danger.
After driving Vic to that location, Stu thinks he's done and can be on his way, but Vic informs him that's not the case as he wants to avenge his late partner's death, even if that means he'll likely miss an art gallery show put on by his estranged adult daughter, Nicole (NATALIE MORALES). With Vic determined to catch the criminal, Stu ends up in situations that he'd really rather not be in.
- OUR TAKE: 5.5 out of 10
- The mismatched buddy comedy genre has long been a staple of Hollywood movies. From Laurel and Hardy and Abbott and Costello through Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis to Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor and many more, such pairings have delivered the laughs by having such characters play off their differences, usually to the point of one or both irritating the other to no end.
Writer/director Walter Hill and his team of scribes -- Roger Spottiswoode, Larry Gross, Steven E. de Souza, and Jeb Stuart -- put a unique spin on that with their 1982 release of "48 Hours," a film that not only marked the big screen debut of Eddie Murphy, but also reportedly ushered in the so-called buddy cop movie (where at least one of the mismatched characters is a police officer).
The biggest change, though, was in mixing the usual comedy with hard-hitting action and violence, something I don't believe had been done much if at all before that. Not knowing of that mix-up of the usual mismatch-up, I remember being startled by the expected comedy being interrupted by the brutal violence.
Viewers whose parents were in their teens or twenties back then might have the same sort of reaction upon seeing "Stuber," the latest mismatched buddy flick where violence is about as prevalent as the comedy, with both sides of that equation having no problem helping earn the film its R rating.
That said, and likely due to not remotely being the first such film out of that particular cinematic gate, this offering from director Michael Dowse and screenwriter Tripper Clancy isn't as shocking. That's not only due to the number of similar films that have preceded it, but also because even when the violence rears its head, it's tinged with enough comedy or over-the-top-ness that much of the sting is softened.
Like "48 Hours," this film features a gruff, no-nonsense cop (Dave Bautista) who ends up paired with an everyday citizen (Kumail Nanjiani) in trying to stop the obligatory villain (Iko Uwais). Vic the officer has just had Lasik surgery and thus needs a driver, while big box sports store employee Stu just so happens to be an Uber driver as his second job. The cop essentially hijacks the driver to get him around L.A. and hijinks ensue.
In terms of story throughput and the villain, the film comes up a bit short, especially with the latter (notwithstanding the physicality Uwais brings to the role). But the ever-alternating protagonist vs. antagonist angle is reserved for Nanjiani and Bautista who milk the material -- some of it quite funny when not occasionally downright outrageous -- for everything it's worth.
There's a subplot involving the cop's estranged relationship with his adult daughter (Natalie Morales), while the driver is hoping to let his female buddy and new business partner (Betty Gilpin) know that being "friends with benefits" isn't enough for him in the relationship department. The latter is Stu's driving force, while Vic's is in capturing the villain and the script provides enough obstacles for both goals that the laughs (the best of which arrive via the dialogue) come easy and frequently.
So much so that you can mostly forgive the pic's more glaring issues, but not enough to give this "Stuber" a rating above 5.5 out of 10.
Reviewed July 2, 2019 / Posted July 12, 2019
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