Stu (Kumail Nanjiani) is a shy, kind-hearted Uber driver who works part-time in a sports good store where his manager Richie (Jimmy Tatro) mockingly calls him ‘Stuber’. Vic (Dave Bautista) is a hardened, grumpy LAPD cop who is on the trail of a notorious drug lord and murderer named Oka Teijo (Iko Uwais). Their worlds collide when Vic gets Stu to drive him all around town in pursuit of Oka. Stu struggles to stay sane and alive while desperate for Vic to give the ride a five-star rating.
‘Stuber’ would seem to be onto a winning formula putting two popular actors in Kumail Nanjiani (renowned for ‘Silicon Valley’ and ‘The Big Sick’) and Dave Bautista (‘Guardians of the Galaxy’) on screen together. Indeed the film is at its strongest when they share scenes. There are other talented cast members including Bautista’s ‘Guardians’ co-star Karen Gillan, Iko Uwais of ‘The Raid’ fame (more on him in a while) and ‘GLOW’s Betty Gilpin, but all are underused with this being Bautista and Nanjiani’s show. Not that there’s anything wrong with that – you just wish they had a better film to work with.
The majority of director Michael Dowse’s work including ‘It’s All Gone Pete Tong’, ‘What If’ and ‘The Grand Seduction’ has earned a mixed reception (though 2011’s ‘Goon’ is a gem) and so it goes with ‘Stuber’ that it has some comical moments but is generally just a so-so movie. The issue is that it’s an action comedy that isn’t particularly effective as an action movie or comedy.
With regards to the former, ‘Stuber’ suffers from a similar problem to last year’s ‘Mile 22’. Why cast renowned martial artist, choreographer and stuntman Iko Uwais if you’re not going to use him properly? The action in the film is shot terribly with far too much shaky camera to see what the heck is going on. You wish they’d take a page out of the ‘John Wick’ or ‘The Raid’ series, using longer takes and inspired choreography rather than forcing the action through the editing a la Michael Bay.
As for it being a comedy, the first 30 to 40 minutes of ‘Stuber’ go by without a single laugh with Tatro’s character’s mocks relied upon for humour but the jokes simply fall flat. On the bright side, the movie picks up once Stu and Vic team up with Nanjiani getting some very funny lines while Bautista plays the straight cop versus his fellow actor’s quirks and awkwardness (a disappointment for Drax fans). Plot wise, it’s basic, formulaic and predictable. In the end, there just aren’t enough laugh-out-loud moments to warrant you trekking to the cinema to see it.