Directed by Michael Dowse.
Starring Kumail Nanjiani, Dave Bautista, Iko Uwais, Natalie Morales, Karen Gillan, Jimmy Tatro, Amin Joseph, Betty Gilpin, Joshua Mikel, Julia Vasi, and Mira Sorvino.
A detective recruits his Uber driver into an unexpected night of adventure.
One unexpected detail about Stuber is that for its majority, Dave Bautista’s hotheaded brute force police officer Vic is rendered blind. It’s a convoluted but necessary bit to jam into the screenplay in order for the character to be in need of the eponymous Uber driver Stu’s (Kumail Nanjiani) services, leading into a day’s long worth of unlikely bonding and violent hijinks. The decision threatens to derail the entire action comedy, as the idea of Dave Bautista trading in his physical athleticism and versatile comedic chops for a feature-length repetitive joke sounds like it would wear thin quickly. Not here; the most successful professional wrestler turned actor somehow rises above a generic script with broad comedy and slapstick humor, transcending otherwise terrible jokes into moments of outlandish hilarity. There are parts of this movie that simply would not be funny without the deadpan timing or buffoonish statuesque presence of Dave Bautista (exhibit a: the played out joke of stumbling right into an expensive sculpture at an art gallery, which is low hanging fruit that just works because of raw talent similar to masters of the craft such as the late great Chris Farley).
It goes without saying that like nearly every Dave Bautista comedic performance, he is pulling inspiration from Drax (his widely beloved Marvel character), which continues to be the wisest decision the talent could make in any movie like this. He doesn’t know what the hell Uber is, just that due to some recent eye surgery he is as blind as a bat and needs a ride all over the place if he’s ever going to put away Teijo (celebrated martial artist Iko Uwais who sadly doesn’t get much of an opportunity to show off his incredible agility and combat abilities), the drug lord that murdered his partner Morris (played by his Guardians of the Galaxy co-star Karen Gillan in an action-packed prologue) and is set to step out of the shadows soon.
The other reason Stuber overcomes its narrative flaws is the chemistry between Dave Bautista and Kumail Nanjiani, which is madcap and overflowing with wacky banter that either draws from machismo takedowns or amusingly on-point pop-culture references (upon first meeting, Stu asks if Vic would like to be taken around to everyone named Sarah Connor). What starts out as a short drive quickly escalates into discovering dead bodies. torturing and interrogating a crony for drop information, and inevitable firefights staged creatively in animal hospitals among other places. In turn, Stu only becomes more and more hyper, reacting to constant danger; at one point they start fighting each other inside of a general sporting goods store, and while I’m not saying Stuber will go down as one of the funniest movies of the year, that sequence, in particular, will definitely stand out and be memorable.
Director Michael Dowse (most known for the hockey comedy Goon) and writer Tripper Clancy keep things moving along at a brisk pace; no set piece feels too long and the driving segments allow enough time for the characters to grow in small doses just as much as they rip into one another. However, the speed at which the movie moves certainly doesn’t help the formulaic plotting (one character turns on the good guys at the last second, something that just about everyone will see coming from miles away) or give the supporting character interactions of each protagonist much weight. It’s made clear that Vic has become so obsessed with avenging his partner that he is losing a meaningful connection with his art sculpture daughter Nicole (Natalie Morales), but the far more interesting subplot is Stu Face-timing a crush (Betty Gilpin) that he is planning on using his Uber earnings to journey into a small business endeavor. It doesn’t have the most surprising resolution, but it does deal with love in realistic manners that Hollywood movies, especially comedies, don’t often do. At only 93 minutes, it makes sense to want more from the side characters, but it’s hard to complain when the upside is maintaining the momentum of Bautista’s and Nanjiani’s hot streak of crackling camaraderie.
The action itself is also fine; it plays to the strengths of eyesight hindered Bautista as well as it can, also offering some rather grotesquely bloody deaths that seemingly but pleasantly come out of nowhere. I’m sure some people have seen the advertisements teasing the car chase and weaponizing of a gas canister, so I’ll just say that the resulting damage needs to be seen to be believed. That willingness to display gore also lends Stuber the vibe of a 90s action comedy and is a product of that time for the best reasons.
There is also the relevant Uber star-rating humor that’s probably going to work on whoever can relate, but also puts a funny modern-day spin on well-traveled material. However, even for those people, the destination will be fairly predictable which does serve as some bumps in the road, but you may not notice them from laughing too hard at Dave Bautista and Kumail Nanjiani. They deserve heaps of praise and the opportunity to work together once again, whether it be for a sequel or new project entirely; Stuber offers that great of a comedic showcase pairing
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, friend me on Facebook, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, check out my personal non-Flickering Myth affiliated Patreon, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com