Directed by: Michael Dowse
Written by: Tripper Clancy
Starring: Dave Bautista, Kumail Nanjiani, Natalie Morales, Iko Uwais, & Karen Gillan
Running time: 105 minutes
Rating: R (for violence and language throughout, some sexual references and brief graphic nudity)
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Release date: July 12, 2019
Stu is an Uber driver. His boss mockingly calls him “Stuber.” The 4-digit passcode to get into the sporting goods store where Stu works is “6969.” These are the type of low-hanging jokes you’ll be settling for should you buckle in for the wildly uneven and unexpectedly violent ride that is Stuber.
The film immediately starts off on the wrong foot with a frustratingly incomprehensible shaky cam action sequence wherein Dave Bautista (as grizzled LAPD Detective Vic Manning) gets into a close-quarters brawl with The Raid star Iko Uwais (as Tedjo, Vic’s perp). On paper it’s an over-the-top, adrenaline-fueled throw-down between two Hollywood badasses. On screen it’s a furious, headache-inducing mess. Much to my chagrin, later action sequences don’t get much better.
The opening crescendos with Tedjo getting away, but not before shooting Vic’s partner (played by Karen Gillan) with her own gun. In the chaos, Vic loses his glasses and decides to get Lasik eye surgery. This inevitably sets-up a recurring gag where Bautista blindly stumbles about, misidentifying people and running into things. Because funny.
When he lands a lead on Tedjo’s whereabouts, Vic’s eagerness to avenge his fallen partner and finally apprehend the man he’s been hunting for two years drives him into action. Unable to see as a result of the surgery, Vic calls an Uber. You know where this is going.
Kumail Nanjiani comfortably rehashes his awkward but endearing nice guy shtick as Stu, who’s Uber-ing part-time to help save money so he can open a spin class business with his best friend (Betty Gilpin), who he’s madly in love with. It’s not a particularly touching subplot but it does pave the way for a heartwarming coda featuring the charming Natalie Morales as Vic’s daughter Nicole.
Bautista and Nanjiani share an effortless, easygoing report that’s easy to like. Bautista in particular got the most laughs from me as the brooding, overly-serious straight man. On the other hand, only rarely did Nanjiani stumble upon something that made me smile during Stu’s many, many nervous rants.
As little attention as the jokes seem to have gotten in Stuber, even less was dedicated to inventing a compelling narrative reason for Vic and Stu to stay together. It’s established early on when they meet that they can’t stand each other’s guts, yet Stu sticks around because Vic steals Stu’a keys every time they reach a destination Really? Likewise, Stu repeatedly makes it clear that he has a problem with Vic’s violent, vigilante lifestyle and that he wants nothing to do with it; and each time all it takes is a couple of sentences from Vic to convince Stu to keep tagging along.
There is an eye-rolling twist in the film that’s revealed much too early and is so underwhelming that I was almost shocked by how little I didn’t care. Fortunately, it doesn’t seem director Michael Dowse cared much for it either because the film breezes past it as if it never happened.
Stuber is a middle-of-the-road action-comedy with a pair of performances worthy of better material. Hopefully one day Bautista and Nanjiani will team up for a funnier film.
⭐️⭐️1/2 (out of five)
Have you yet checked out this movie? If so, what did you think of it? If not, is it something you plan on seeing? Jump down to the comments below and let me know your Stuber-related thoughts!