Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Michael Dowse
Stars: Dave Bautista, Kumail Nanjiani, Natalie Morales, Iko Uwais, Mira Sorvino, Karen Gillan, Betty Gilpin, Jimmy Tatro, Scott Lawrence.
Another tired and cliched variation on the odd couple cop buddy bromance action comedy formula that was popular in the 80s and 90s. However, films like Lethal Weapon, Midnight Run and 48 Hours did this sort of thing so much better.
It’s LA’s hottest day since 1911. Vic Manning (played by former wrestler Dave Bautista, best known for his role as Drax in the Guardians Of The Galaxy franchise) is a tough and perennially angry LA cop who is obsessed with trying to bring down Teijo (Iko Uwais, the charismatic star from The Raid, etc), a vicious drug dealer who killed his partner six months earlier during a shootout outside the Staples Centre. Vic is also estranged from his artist daughter Nicole (Natalie Morales), who is about to have an opening of her sculptures at a gallery. Vic has just undergone laser eye surgery to correct his failing vision when he receives a telephone call confirming that Teijo is back in town and a big drug deal is planned.
Unable to drive, Vic commandeers an Uber ride with the timid mild-mannered Stu (played by Kumail Nanjiani, from The Big Sick, etc). The hapless Stu works as a salesman in a sporting goods store by day and drives his hybrid Uber part time. Stu is a bit of a wimp, especially when it comes to his relationship with his future business partner and possible romantic partner Becca (Beth Gilpin), and his supercilious, chauvinistic and clueless manager Ritchie (Jimmy Tatro). He is fastidious and polite and anxious to maintain his five-star rating.
The pair bicker and argue while in hot pursuit of Teijo, all the while dodging bullets during a couple of shootouts and car chases. But they also slowly begin to bond as Vic helps Stu find his tougher, masculine side and assert himself, while Stu addresses Vic’s emotional illiteracy regarding his relationship with his daughter.
Stuber has been written by Tripper Clancy (Hot Dog, etc) who obviously knows the tropes of the genre, and his derivative, by-the-numbers script has clearly been influenced by those classic 80s action comedies. The device that kicks the action off – that the nearly blind Vic has kept his job as a cop for so long – requires a healthy suspension of disbelief.
The director is Michael Dowse (Goon, etc) who seems comfortable with the juxtaposition between humour and action. He maintains a frenetic pace throughout. The film delivers plenty of action with some carefully choreographed carnage and fast paced car chases, but the violence seems a little too graphic for what is supposedly a comedy.
Bautista and Nanjiani are likeable leads and create a prickly odd couple dynamic here. Their contrasting physical appearance also creates some comedic tension and provides some laughs. Much of the dialogue between the pair also seems improvised on set as they trade barbs. Bautista seems to revel in the physical comedy here, and his no-prisoners approach as the battered and vengeance-fuelled cop on a mission works. Nanjiani’s deadpan approach to his nervous and neurotic character adds humour to the material and he gets some of the film’s best lines. Uwais, who also doubled as fight choreographer, handles the martial arts action effectively with a couple of breathtaking fight sequences, but is largely wasted as a stereotypical villain.
The supporting cast includes Mira Sorvino as Vic’s corrupt police captain and Bautista’s Guardians Of The Galaxy co-star Karen Gillan as Vic’s partner Sara.
Stuber offers a comedic riff on the plot of Collateral, in which Tom Cruise’s hitman hires a cab to drive him around to his targets. Stu may offer a five-star ride, but the film itself only offers a three-star experience at the cinema.