WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Stuber, in theaters now.
Some of Hollywood's biggest leading men come from the genre on which Dave Bautista cut his teeth: action. Sure, he's also known for comedy, but there's plenty of overlap between the two. For evidence, consider the decades-spanning careers of Bruce Willis, Tom Cruise and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
But while Bautista, the former professional wrestler turned actor, may not be a marquee name just yet, he's ascending the ladder, with Stuber providing his latest boost.
One of the big reasons Bautista left the WWE was to focus more on acting, at a time when several wrestlers were still struggling to make the transition. Dwayne Johnson worked his way up from roles in The Tooth Fairy, The Scorpion King and Be Cool to become a cornerstone of franchises like like Journey, Jumanji and The Fast and the Furious, while John Cena made a name for himself with such films as Blockers and Bumblebee. But what many people may not recognize is how much of Bautista's cinematic output are blockbusters.
He has largely been a supporting player, from The Man with the Iron Fists and Spectre to Blade Runner 2049 and the Marvel Cinematic Universe (two Guardians of the Galaxy films, plus Avengers: Infinity War and its sequel, Endgame). There's also his upcoming role in Denis Villeneuve's Dune. That's a pretty impressive filmography, and studios wouldn't be hiring Bautista if there weren't something special about him. In Stuber, he displays chops similar to Johnson, not only as an action star who can take out gangs as a Los Angeles police detective, but also through his comedic exchanges with Uber driver Stu (Kumail Nainjiani). Whether it's intimidating one-liners, brutally choreographed fights or profane rants, Bautista brings the heat.
It's a dynamic reminiscent of Johnson and his co-star Kevin Hart in Central Intelligence, and given that Bautista is set to take the lead again in the action-comedy My Spy (although the timing remains an open question), you can't help but feel his time is coming. That film will depict him as a CIA agent looking after a young girl and her family, not unlike Vin Diesel's role in The Pacifier; you can see the common career trajectory.
Like all of the other names mentioned, Bautista has displayed impressive range (just watch his brief but cathartic performance in Blade Runner 2049), which is translating into success. As he runs the gauntlet in Stuber, taking out informants and gangs, it's easy to see why he was chosen to lead this movie. More so, you definitely get the sense he's ready to embrace more leading roles, and take his acting career to the next level.
Directed by Michael Dowse, Stuber stars Kumail Nanjiani, Dave Bautista, Iko Uwais, Natalie Morales, Betty Gilpin, Jimmy Tatro, Mira Sorvino and Karen Gillan. The film is in theaters now.