Review: Stuber

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PLOT: A meek Uber driver (Kumail Nanjiani) is in for the worst night of his life when he picks up a bad-ass detective (Dave Bautista) hot on the trail of the drug runner (Iko Uwais) who murdered his partner.

REVIEW: STUBER is an affectionate homage to one of the signature genres of the eighties/nineties - the mismatched buddy cops. Unapologetically hard-R, this is a surprisingly rough and tumble little studio actioner. It seems geared towards audiences (like me) who grew up watching flicks like LETHAL WEAPON and 48 HRS and is definitely a fun throwback that has a stronger emphasis on action than you’d think given the trailers.

In the tradition of Nick Nolte & Eddie Murphy, Mel Gibson & Danny Glover and a dozen more mismatched pairings, here’s Kumail Nanjiani and Dave Bautista. This is Nanjiani’s first real follow-up to THE BIG SICK, and it seems tailor-made to his mild-mannered persona. He plays a lovesick Uber driver, who dreams of the day he can get out of the friend zone with his gorgeous best pal (“Glow”’s Betty Gilpin) to the extent that he’s sunk his life savings into a gym she’s opening, leading to his current gig. On his way to being fired due to too many one-star reviews, he needs a five-star rating to keep his job, which is why he lets Dave Bautista’s rough cop drag him around the city.

The rationale for Bautista needing an Uber driver is fairly inspired, with him having undergone Lasik just before getting a tip that his partner’s killer has popped back into town, meaning his vision is temporarily on the fritz- thus he needs a driver. Bautista shows a real flair for slapstick comedy, with lots of mileage gotten out of the Mr. Magoo-like scenario, made funnier by the fact that he’s a 300 pound, 6’6 behemoth. Bautista’s always been game to self-parody, and this probably the first star vehicle for him that really lets him cut loose and show what he’s made of.

What’s especially surprising about STUBER is how legit the action is, with director Michael Dowse (GOON, FUBAR) really kicking-up the carnage beyond what you’d expect in a mainstream comedy. Often, this can be a tough juggling act to pull off but Dowse makes it work, similar to how it did in movies like THE HARD WAY back in the nineties. While I’d wager it still emphasized comedy over action to some degree, it doesn’t do so by a wide margin. Some of the action set pieces are pretty nifty, including an ultra-violent shoot-out in a vet’s office (scored to The Hollies’s “The Air That I Breathe”). My only issue with the action is that Iko Uwais isn’t served especially well, with too much quick cutting in his scraps with Bautista.

Likewise, STUBER follows the buddy cop formula pretty closely, with all the red-herrings you’d expect, as well as the partnership that evolves from mutual hate to respect in ninety minutes. Having Bautista be old enough to have a daughter (Natalie Morales) that can be a conceivable love interest for Nanjiani spices things up a bit too, as does the fact that Nanjiani’s a civilian, not a cop, and also not completely helpless in the action scenes (meaning he’s not just comic relief).

All in all, STUBER is pretty much top of the heap as far as recent comedies go. Nanjiani is likable and isn’t especially schticky- making him easier to invest in as a leading man than some of his contemporaries. Bautista seems genuinely amused by him throughout, and their chemistry is top-shelf, especially during an impromptu, violent fight they have with each other in the middle of a sporting goods store. As far as buddy-movie pairings go, this is one of the better ones to come along in quite some time. If you miss old-school eighties/nineties action comedies, this is most definitely for you.

Source: JoBlo.com

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