Genre: Action Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 33 min.
Release Date: July 12th, 2019 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Michael Dowse Actors: Dave Bautista, Kumail Nanjiani, Natalie Morales, Betty Gilpin, Iko Uwais, Jimmy Tatro, Mira Sorvino, Karen Gillan
fter a tragedy occurs during an apprehension attempt on heroin trafficker Oka Tedjo (Iko Uwais), police officer Vic Manning’s (Dave Bautista) personal and professional life steadily deteriorates. After months pass, a reappearance of Tedjo grants Vic an opportunity at redemption in the field – but at the expense of his already strained relationship with his daughter Nicole (Natalie Morales). Inadvertently scheduling LASIK surgery on the same day as Nicole’s art gala finds the rugged cop visionless, but salvation comes in the form of mild-mannered, approval-seeking Uber driver Stu (Kumail Nanjiani). When Vic receives intel from an informant that Tedjo will be present for a large shipment of drugs sometime soon, he forces the timid chauffeur to assist him in a dangerous trek around the city, interrogating and combating the ruthless gangster’s henchmen until they can locate the head honcho himself.
The opening sequence features Bautista taking as much punishment as he did in “Blade Runner 2049,” even though he was a robot in that film. It’s an exceptional amount of heavy-hitting action, which not only comes across as unbelievable (there are jokes later on concerning his Terminator-like appearance and conduct), but also establishes a severity that must be overcome in order for the humor to eventually take hold. As with many action-comedies, the use of graphic bloodshed – a matter of desensitization for most – becomes a curious hurdle for laughs to counteract. Plus, physical violence routinely serves as straightforward comedy.
“Massive eyebrows obstruct vision,” states a criticizing feedback on Stu’s Uber rating. The one-liners and verbal comedy are fairly effective, offering up a continual source of moderately amusing humor; not unlike many comedies of late, “Stuber” focuses on quantity over quality, hoping that the good jokes outweigh the bad. But perhaps more than the comical insults, the sound advice from unusual sources (such as a male stripper), and the over-the-top racism, it’s the pairing of Nanjiani and Bautista that provides consistent hilarity. Twinning a straight man with a funny man isn’t new, nor is a forced cooperation between polar opposites, but these two vastly different comedians present a winning dynamic. Oftentimes, when the roles are reversed and Nanjiani is required to comment on serious things while Bautista drops the typically invariable machismo, the laughs increase.
Uber seems like a terrible profession, though it’s the combination of that, an even more humiliating retail position, and bad decisions based on a longtime crush that constitute Stu’s pitiableness. And Vic’s prioritization of his work over his daughter, his stressful job, and his desperation in closing a virtually unsolvable case lend to his disagreeable demeanor. But together they demonstrate a nicely comedic clash of brute force versus brains, coolness versus panic, and old-fashioned solutions versus relatable modernity. As they sort out relationships and family issues amidst bullets and blood – akin to a therapy session with a baseball bat – the unrealistic shanghaiing eventually succumbs to fantastical resolutions or absurd stalling tactics; dire circumstances simply can’t hold up in the face of mirthful bickering and slapstick, pressured instead to resort to unfitting nonsense. But the leads are a competent collaboration that succeeds more often than not. “We’re the good guys! He’s a cop; I’m with Uber.”
– The Massie Twins