12th Jul2019

‘Stuber’ Review

by Matthew Turner

Stars: Kumail Nanjiani, Dave Bautista, Iko Uwais, Natalie Morales, Betty Gilpin, Jimmy Tatro, Steve Howey, Mira Sorvino, Karen Gillan | Written by Tripper Clancy | Directed by Michael Dowse

stuber-poster

Dave Bautista and Kumail Nanjiani star as a burly cop and his reluctant Uber driver in this action comedy from the director of Goon. Sadly, despite the promise of its central pairing, Stuber disappoints in both the action and comedy departments.

Nanjiani plays Stuart, a sporting goods store employee who has a second job as an Uber driver (Stuart + Uber = Stuber, geddit?), so he can help his best friend-slash-long-time crush Becca (Betty Gilpin) open a spin class business. Bautista plays Vic, a beefy, bullish cop who’s desperate to take down Tedjo (The Raid’s Iko Uwais), the drug dealer who killed his partner (Karen Gillan).

By a disastrous coincidence, Vic gets a tip-off about Tedjo’s whereabouts right after he’s come out of LASIK eye surgery, meaning that he’s temporarily blind. Luckily, Vic’s daughter Nicole (Natalie Morales) has recently installed a popular ride-sharing app on his phone, so he calls an Uber and ends up forcing a reluctant Stu to drive him around LA in pursuit of a violent criminal.

As mismatched buddies in buddy comedies go, you’d be hard pressed to get more mismatched than Bautista and Nanjiani. Indeed, anyone already familiar with their standard comic personas (Nanjiani nerdy and slightly uptight, Bautista tough and angry but with a sweet side) is probably already chuckling a little in anticipation. Unfortunately, the promised chemistry never quite materialises, creating an uncomfortable tension whereby the audience keeps waiting for something to click into place and it never does. Instead, their back-and-forth bickering quickly degenerates into uninspired shouting.

Stuber‘s biggest problem is that neither of its two elements really come together. The comedy frequently feels lazy, often resorting to tired gags about being “manly” and never following through on anything that seems promising. Similarly, the action is just routine stuff, and there’s no set-piece to get the pulse racing. The closest it comes to marrying action and comedy is a gag that occurs very early on, when Vic temporarily stops Tedjo with the inspired use of a hotel trolley.

In fairness, the film does have one very funny gag, involving the use of Twitter as a torture device, but one single laugh-out-loud joke in a 93 minute movie is not a good hit rate. It also doesn’t help that the film lamely rehashes all the gags about action movie clichés from The Other Guys, perhaps hoping the audience won’t notice.

There are other problems too, such as the fact that Vic’s blindness seems to vary wildly from scene to scene – at one point he can apparently see well enough to snatch up a set of keys, yet moments later he can’t tell the difference between a TV and an aquarium. Dowse also struggles to find the right tone – this is a violent film in which people are frequently killed and the script can’t quite decide how to address that fact. In the end, it both acknowledges it and shrugs it off simultaneously, by having Stu sheepishly confess “We killed a bunch of people” to Vic’s daughter.

Bautista and Nanjiani both do their best, but they’re poorly served by the script, which becomes increasingly frustrating. As for the supporting performances, Uwais is ridiculously underwritten and doesn’t even get to showcase his best moves in the fight scenes, while the wonderful Betty Gilpin is so badly side-lined that she ends up doing 90 per cent of her scenes via a FaceTime call.

On top of everything else, it’s impossible to shake the feeling that the entire film is just one big ad for Uber, especially when they shoe-horn in scenes that basically say, hey, did you know Uber had a car-pool option?

Ultimately, Stuber is a comedy thriller that fails to deliver either laughs or thrills, despite the best efforts of its two leads. In Uber terms, it’s a two star ride, no tip.

** 2/5

Stuber is in cinemas from July 12th.

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