STUBER. US, 2019 Starring Dave Bautista, Kamail Nanjiani, Mira Sorvino, Natalie Morales, Iko Uwais, Betty Gilpin, Karen Gillen. Directed by Michael Dowse. 93 minutes. Rated MA (Strong violence, coarse language, brief nudity).
Probably best to give some considered thought about whether to see this film or not. It could be described as a film that undemanding audiences might watch on Netflix on a quiet night at home, continuing if it is entertaining, stopping if it does not appeal. Which it does mean that this is a film of mixed appeal (and not).
Basically, it is another police thriller, a tougher-than-tough police officer, played by former wrestler, Dave Bautista, whose partner is killed, is affected deeply, even suffering from sight disorder. But, of course, he is relentless – and in the opening minutes we have witnessed some really rough stuff, relentless fights. One of the basic appeals of the film is to those who like this kind of rough stuff.
However, the co-star is Kamail Nanjiani (who made a big impact with his autobiographical story, The Big Sick, and was highly entertaining as the voice of the tiny Pawny in the recent Men in Black International). Which means then that this is also an Odd Couple kind of police investigation, the contrast between brawn and brains, the contrast between gung-ho and an Everyman timidity, each, of course, learning from the other.
Nsnjiani is Stu, an Uber driver, who is often picked on, is involved in with the son of the boss (who later reveals that Stu was his best friend because of the to-ing and fro-ing), is in love with a friend from school days who is opening up her gym for LA spinsters, he investing in it for love of her, she phoning him incessantly for consolation. Bautista is Vic, separated from his wife, loving his sculptor daughter and promising to be at her opening, but…
So, Stu arrives with his Uber, and has to follow Vic into all kinds of dangerous situations, dead bodies, shootouts, the visit to a vet who tends wounds, a whole lot of communications and confusions with iPhones, Stu frequently interrupted by the girlfriend, Vic worried about danger to his daughter, a visit to her show, the buildup to car chases, a final confrontation with the mastermind as well as the chief villain (martial arts performer, Iko Uwais, star of the Indonesian films, Raid). Mira Sorvino is present as a police chief.
Plenty of action for those who want it (tough and offputting for those who don’t), comic touches between the two central characters, sometimes funny, sometimes laboured, sometimes trying, Vic struggling with his blindness, crashing cars, poor aim in shooting… not always funny and is overdone, Stu’s girlfriend quite tiresome.
But, at the centre is the male macho American image, tough, seemingly unfeeling, relentless, being challenged by the meeker man with feelings. He, of course, has to rise to some violent occasions. Vic, on the other hand, has to acknowledge feelings, give up being so tough, even to final tears and a hug!
Fox Released July 11th
Peter Malone MSC is an Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.