There's a scene early on in "Stuber" where Vic Manning (Dave Bautista), in pursuit of a murder suspect, tosses a large piece of furniture over a hotel railing down towards the lobby, striking the assailant. Afterward, Vic literally jumps over the same hotel floor railing down three stories to the lobby, slamming face-first into the hard marble surface. He gets up and carries on.
Welcome to Michael Dowse's summer adventure film that doesn't care about convention, realism, or feelings. What Dowse, armed with a witty script from Tripper Clancy (an upcoming bad guy name in a White House thriller), has produced here is a breezy, funny, and fast-moving buddy comedy that thrives on the chemistry of its two leads.
Vic, impaired by vision problems, has to call an Uber to take him around town after the deadly Tedjo (international martial arts star, Iko Uwais). Stu (Kumail Nanjiani) shows up, merely hoping for a 5-star rating from the larger-than-life guy who gets in his car. When Stu tries breaking the ice by predicting Vic wants him to drive to all the John Connors in the neighborhood, the evening gets off on the wrong foot.
Bautista can do toe-to-toe action in his sleep and has screen presence to spare, but it's the comedy flair he brings to the role of Vic, an old-school tough guy trying to avenge the loss of a friend, that kicks it up a notch. We've seen this in "Guardians of the Galaxy", where Bautista's Drax has a lot of dry humor that works well in that cast and plot. Here, working with the truly gifted comedian Nanjiani, he holds his own in the laughs department by relying on deadpan reactions and one-liners.
One of the things that makes this film work is the relentlessly vulgar script from Clancy. Several other producers and studios would have watered down this thing to a safe and guided PG-13 dirt nap, so I am glad Twentieth Century Fox rolled with it and let all the jokes fly.
"Stuber" is one of the first movies to incorporate the rideshare app, Uber, into the plot, setting Vic up for the ride of his life with Stu, thus giving the film its title. It's not just a few instances where the app is mentioned. The ratings, amenities in cars, and how vile riders can be that has Stu down in the dumps when Vic hops in, so I appreciated the candid look at the hilarity this job can bring.
Honestly, you could have fed me scenes of Bautista and Nanjiani going back and forth at each other with their opposite backgrounds and fumbling handle of masculinity, and I would have been satisfied. Unfortunately, the drug dealer subplot has to get dealt with, and that means a lot of car chases, gun battles, and fights that we have seen a thousand times.
I'll admit that I enjoyed seeing Bautista, a former Wrestling star and owner of a purple belt in Ju-Jitsu, go at it with Uwais, who dazzled in The Raid movies. Natalie Morales has a few good scenes with Bautista as Vic's daughter, enlivening the surroundings with much-needed grace. Whenever Morales shows up in movies or TV shows, I know it will be OK.
What works well here is the edgy dialogue sprung between the two leads. A slow-moving subplot about Vic's experience as a kid surviving in the desert with a testy father is played for a few good laughs down the stretch, but I wouldn't label this film as a hub for originality.
It's exactly what the cover of the book promises you. Look at the poster and make a choice. Two guys in a car, all over Los Angeles, running scared and mad while looking for justice and a way away from one another. I laughed a lot, and didn't feel like my 90 minutes were wasted in a cool movie theater.
Stuber isn't trying to reinvent the wheel or how movies are constructed; it simply wants to ease your mind for a little while. Consider myself eased. This is guilty pleasure-infused silly fun.
If you don't like superheroes in tights, useless sequels, or disturbed horror films, get into Stuber's car and relax.