July 4, 2019

GENRE | Kumail Nanjiani Drives Hard – 'Stuber'

"You've messed with the wrong Uber driver."
Kumail Nanjiani Dave Bautista Michael Dowse | Stuber

Kumail Nanjiani and Dave Bautista team up for a fairly basic twenty-first century riff on the 1980-90s era throwback cop action genre of buddy comedies in Stuber. The mismatched duo consists of a part-time Uber driver (Stu, thus the title) and the temporarily blind detective (Vic) who hires him as they're tasked with tracking down a violent criminal across Los Angeles.

Directed by Canadian filmmaker Michael Dowse, Stuber's enjoyment rests solely on the chemistry of its leads within the one day in L.A. story as it unfolds. If you're in the mood for a very specific kind of action/comedy entertainment, it has just enough momentum to likely satiate you. Otherwise, there's really not much to it aside from some light commentary about toxic masculinity.

Actresses Natalie Morales and Betty Gilpin make the most of their minor plot roles as Vic's estranged daughter and Stu's crush to drive the convoluted story to its barrelling finale. It's a mostly fine cast that's underutilized—never more obvious than with Indonesian martial artist Iko Uwais who's criminally wasted as a stereotypical foreign gang leader villain. It feels like everyone deserved better despite the still enjoyable nostalgic ride.

Considering the fine comedic and dramatic work both Nanijiani and Bautista have regularly shown they're capable of, Stuber, while mostly light fun, can't help but feel slight and a missed opportunity, especially considering both their unique backgrounds. It's one of those films where everyone clearly had a good time and liked working together but the collective enthusiasm and talent of all involved never quite fully came together as a whole.

Stuber isn't much more than the throwback R-rated action buddy comedy it aims to be. It's entirely made on the charisma of its leads, Nanijani and Bautista, but the old school plotting and contemporary jokes don't quite mesh as hoped. However, it's fairly consistently funny even when the laughs aren't particularly complex.

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