Note: This is a review of a work-in-progress cut of the film. It is not the final version.
One of the cool things about SXSW is that studios and filmmakers love the audiences here so much that they’re willing to show movies months early, even if they’re not 100% finished. When Seth Rogen brought Sausage Party to SXSW it was so rough that huge sections were still in storyboard form.
As a film fan I must admit that it’s really cool seeing these work in progress cuts and the latest to get that treatment is 20th Century Fox’s Stuber, a buddy comedy that pairs the unlikely duo of Kumail Nanjiani and Dave Bautista together. The film isn’t slated to hit screens until July 12th and the cut that screened still has a couple weeks of editing to go before being locked, but even in this rough shape it’s easy to tell that it delivers the goods. A few tweaks and trims in the first act are needed, but will certainly be addressed before they lock picture. I’m going to give you a rundown of my impressions from this screening, just be aware that it is in rough form and what I saw will not be exactly what you see this coming July.
Stuber follows Stu, a likable pushover who drives for Uber (Stu+Uber, get it?) during his free time so he can afford to invest in his crush’s spin class business. Stu is thrown together with a cop in the tough-as-nails mold hot the trail of murderous drug pusher. The thing is the cop, Vic (Bautista), just had LASIK surgery so he’s in no condition to drive and his superiors have taken the case away from him, so with nowhere else to turn, he orders an Uber.
From then on the two unlikely partners travel all over L.A. and find themselves everywhere from a male strip club (where the phrase “Did I just see a dick the size of Simon Birch?” is uttered) to an emergency vet clinic to a Sriracha factory as they hunt down a criminal mastermind known as Teijo.
Pairing Dave Bautista and Kumail Nanjiani is inspired and that dynamic is the strongest stuff in the movie. The Odd Couple figured out this formula years ago, but when you have these two opposites bouncing off each other for an hour and a half you know you’re in for a good time. Especially when one of them is near blind and the other is a blubbering coward. That puts an interesting spin on the standard shoot-out scene.
What’s interesting is that while the two men are opposites, they share a big heart. Both are very caring people, it’s just that one will shove his thumb into a bullet wound to get a bad guy to talk and the other faints at the sight of blood. This friendship is forged in a trial by fire as they hunt down The Raid‘s Iko Uwais, a bad man against whom Vic has a personal grudge.
The biggest criticism I have of the film is that it does what just about every Western film that has been smart enough to cast Uwais has done: they waste him. He has a good fight scene at the beginning and disappears for the rest of the movie. If he was a constant threat throughout the film I think the tension would have been an interesting counter to the comedy on display, but that’s not what the filmmakers wanted. They clearly wanted to put the focus on Bautista and Nanjiani, which I get. More power to them, but I can’t help but think of it as a bit of a missed opportunity.
That said there is some surprising violence and vulgarity that definitely gets a big thumbs up from me. Between Good Boys, Long Shot, and now this, this SXSW has proven that the R-rated comedy is alive and well and it’s nice to see it still thriving.
If there’s nothing else to take away from this movie it’s that Bautista and Nanjiani are clearly stars and should be given way more leading roles. Hell, I’d be fine if they were locked into a 10-year contract where all they did was pump out a new buddy comedy every year until 2029, Hope & Crosby style. If the next one was Nanjiani taking Bautista to Comic-Con you’d have a winner. Just throwing that out there…