Stuber came in the same year as the Fast & Furious’ high budget, absurdly bonkers buddy-cop spin-off Hobbs & Shaw. However, although both films took the buddy-cop formula (and both starred former WWE champions), the Michael Dowse directed project took a far simpler route offering a narrative that’s by no means revolutionary and primarily takes place in a leased Uber taxi cab. Despite offering little in the way of surprises and fresh takes, it clicks due to its charismatic leading men.
Stuber tells the story of Detective Vic (Dave Bautista) and Stu (Kumail Nanjiani). Vic is a cop with bad eyesight, who obsessively focuses on his job and in doing so, has built a fractured relationship with his daughter. Stu is a passive Uber driver, who is desperately seeking five-star ratings at every turn and is working non-stop to help Becca (Betty Gilpin), a woman he is madly in love with, open up her new business.
After Vic gets laser eye surgery to help his vision, he is given a tip in a case he has been working non-stop for six months. Desperate to take advantage, Vic calls an Uber, and Stu answers the call as the two set off on a wild ride.
The film starts fast with a scene where Vic and his partner attempt to take down the criminal Tedjo (Iko Uwais). During a chaotic fight and chase, Vic loses his glasses, making it difficult for him to see, and Tedjo ends up killing his partner. We then cut to Stu six months later, who is shown driving a variety of customers all in the hopes of saving up enough money to win the heart of Becca. The opening scenes do a good job of establishing the character’s motives, as well as key relationships that continue to impact the story as the film moves along.
With a thin story, Stuber relies heavily on its leading men for laughs, and fortunately, Bautista and Kumail are a fantastic comic duo. Not only does their polar opposite physiques fit their respective characters, but both play off one another well. From the first time Vic gets in Stu’s car, the conversations flow, and there are countless one-liners and funny quips tied into dialogue that moves the story forward. What works more than anything is the subtle humour between Vic and Stu. It is evident in the scene where Stu guesses Vic is Chinese because he is squinting, only seconds after claiming Vic was a racist for threatening to arrest a brown Asian man, and Vic responds: “And I’m the racist one?”
The script is also well structured, and each scene does a good job leading to the next, giving us a reason and explanation for why our characters have ended up at a certain location. In addition to this, the relationships our two main characters have with the respective women in their lives makes them more relatable and also enables audiences to feel more sympathy for them when they are at their lowest.
Action is a big part of this film, and it’s a strong element of Stuber as the pace of the action scenes fits perfectly with the overall speed in which this Uber story drives at. Plus, it combines the right amount of humour while ensuring the action stays physical and believable.
Unfortunately for director Michael Dowse, the simplistic approach does end up hurting his buddy-cop tale. A twist in the narrative comes far too early, leaving the climax at a disadvantage as there is no potential for surprises. Giving audiences a predictable ending that Bautista and Kumail salvage with their charm and charisma.
Although Bautista and Kumail keep you engaged at almost every turn, there are moments where their jokes don’t quite hit the mark. This is often the case when they try to resort to loud, over the top comedy that feels forced instead of the great one-liners that feel effortless and natural. On the occasions where the laughs don’t come, it becomes painfully clear how much Stuber relies on its two leads.
In the end, though, Stuber proves to be a fun film that is breezy, funny and gives us a comedic duo we never knew we needed. Stu’s Uber ride isn’t quite five stars, but thanks to Bautista and Kumail’s chemistry, it’s a ride worth taking.
Dir: Michael Dowse
Scr: Tripper Clancy
Cast: Kumail Nanjiani, Dave Bautista, Iko Uwais, Natalie Morales, Betty Gilpin, Karen Gillan
Prd: John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein
DoP: Bobby Shore
Music: Joseph Trapanese
Runtime: 89 minutes
Stuber is available on DVD and Digital now