Basically, there are two different stories with two different genres happening in Michael Dowse’s new movie, Stuber, written by Tripper Clancy. The first story is a hardboiled police story, entangling a gigantic yet shortsighted cop, Victor (Dave Bautista, Guardians of the Galaxy, Blade Runner 2049), pursuing an Indonesian drug-lord, Oka Tedjo (Iko Uwais with a hybrid yet authentic name) to avenge his killed partner. The second story is a rom-com centering on a hapless Uber driver, Stu (Kumail Nanjiani, The Big Sick) struggling to express his feelings to Becca (Betty Gilpin, GLOW), his unrequited love. Strange but true, both stories complement each other to make a dumb-fun Uber ride through the night.
The unlikely alliance begins as post-Lasik operation Vic gets his vision blurred for the whole day. At the same time, he gets a tip from his mole that Tedjo is back in town. Virtually blind, Vic needs all the help he can have to drive him to Tedjo’s rendezvous point. That’s where he blindly orders an UberPool service, which Stu takes. It’s a long night for both of them, but long story short, Vic kidnaps Stu but, simultaneously, gets Stockholm syndrome out of him. Should the movie be released back in the midst of the 90s, it might actually be a big box office hit with one condition: it doesn’t get haywire due to the backlash of not being white enough.
It’s a big leap learning that such a blockbuster-minded action-comedy is bold enough to thrive without any white leader, but they do and it works. Bautista and Nanjiani make a fabulous feat as they exchange banters and get to know each other deeper. Most of the time, it is Nanjiani’s charisma that actually works to counter Bautista’s character’s prone to slapstick. The big guy is pretty adept at being the retro action hero who will enthusiastically kick asses and throw one-liners. Nanjiani, in the opposite, plays a wider range from the loser guy to the hero for the day. However, he’s best when he confronts Bautista for the toxic masculinity traits.
The chemistry between Bautista and Nanjiani works, even when the character isn’t given enough time to bond. Stuber takes no time to brake to give them the intimate moment both characters deserve. Instead, this actioner enjoys its time shooting people’s head off or weaving nonsensical, unplanned conflicts with its one-dimensional villain. Frankly, the action sequences are nothing special, even when Uwais involves in it. Most of the time, it feels stiff and too clinical if not for Nanjiani’s awkward involvement in some of them. The whole formula feels dumb fun at the beginning, but when it goes the same pace for the whole duration, it finally runs out the fuel. When it comes to that, Stuber becomes a little tedious in the end.
In the end, Stuber is best when Bautista and Nanjiani are up for a dumb fun ride, exchanging silly dialogues and mocking toxic masculinity. And yet, the movie goes on repeating the same old scheme until the fuel runs out. Honestly, it’s easy to give this ride three stars at maximum (it doesn’t deserve five stars, no matter how it tries to please you). Just don’t expect me to tip.