There is something so distinctly wonderful about throwing two actors together who wouldn’t seem to go together, but when they do, magic happens. Such is the case with Stuber, a new throwback buddy cop action/comedy that pairs Kumail Nanjiani (The Big Sick) with Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy) in what should easily be one of the funniest movies of the year, given what was screened at SXSW recently. What we saw was a work-in-progress cut, meaning that what is ultimately released may change a bit, which is only more impressive considering how well it all works as is.
Vic (Dave Bautista) is a hard-nosed cop who is far too focused on his work, especially when the man he’s been chasing down narrowly escapes his grasp, with dire consequences. Months later, Vic picks up on this brutal criminal’s trail. Unfortunately, he’s not authorized to chase down the case and, what’s more, he can’t drive himself anywhere because he just had Lasik eye surgery. Enter Stu (Kumail Nanjiani), an even-tempered Uber driver who is trying to get some funds together to start his small business and unwittingly picks up Vic and is thrust into this ordeal. Unfortunately for Stu, if he wants to keep his four-star rating, he’s going to have to stay for the whole ride.
The problem with action/comedy movies is the blend of the two is rarely right. The comedy may be great, but the action can suffer. Or the other way around. Perhaps the absolute best thing about Stuber is that it perfectly balances and executes both. It’s a laugh-a-minute thrill ride with genuinely outstanding action sequences peppered throughout. The two don’t really step on one another’s toes, which is a rare feat. The action is helped immensely by Iko Uwais (The Raid) who is one of the finest in the business in that department. He’s perhaps a bit underused, but when he’s there, it’s felt in a big way. So much credit to director Michael Dowse and being great at both here, as it’s hard to find a director this good at one or the other at times.
This feels very much like an 80s throwback in the vein of 48 Hours or Lethal Weapon, but with plenty of modern day twists. It also feels rather similar to Central Intelligence, the Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart comedy from a few years ago, in more than a few ways. I personally enjoyed that movie, but this is superior. I only say that for anyone who may look at this and think, “I’ve seen it. Pass.” Don’t pass.
Easily, the ace up this movie’s sleeve is the duo at its center. Dave Bautista is one of a new class of actors, like Dwayne Johnson or John Cena, who have managed to pivot their professional wrestling careers into successful acting careers. Many wrestlers have dabbled in Hollywood, but Bautista is asserting himself as a genuine actor with range and raw talent. This is unquestionably the perfect use of all his talents. Couple that with Kumail Nanjiani, one of the funniest men working today in any medium, who is cranked to 11 Spinal Tap style here. The two opposing forces are a brilliant pairing, a pairing I can only guess nobody ever would have thought to make before seeing this movie. Props to the casting director on that one because it made this movie what it is.
I just talked about how Good Boys, which also debuted at SXSW, may be that one great comedy we’re lucky to get in any given year. It’s amazing how good Stuber is by comparison, though, a decidedly different type of comedy, to be sure. An embarrassment of riches. This is also coming from Fox and they, as a studio, have always been great about making this type of R-rated, out-of-the-box movie. With the Disney/Fox deal set to close next week, it’s hard not to think about the types of movies, like this type of movie, may be lost in the shuffle. Stuber arrives on July 12 from. 20th Century Fox.