The buddy film genre receives a modern day spin in 20th Century Fox’s Stuber from director Michael Dowse. Veteran, tough-as-nails LAPD NARC Vic Manning (Dave Bautista) is on a mission to track down a drug trafficker and cop killer Teijo (Iko Uwais). Due to his recent LASIK surgery, Vic cannot drive himself around. Vic decides to force a meek Uber driver by the name of Stu (Kumail Nanjiani) to assist him with his mission.
Stu has his own set of problems including a low paying job at a big box sporting goods store and unrequited feelings for his best friend Becca (Betty Gilpin). Stu is so love struck that he co-finances a business with Becca. Due to Stu’s meek nature, he has no idea how to say no to Becca’s dream. Will Vic get his man and will Stu learn to stick up for himself? It does not take a rocket scientist to see where Stuber is going in its race to the finish line. However the chemistry of our leads is what makes Stuber a fun time at the movies.
The concept of toxic masculinity is the central backdrop of Stuber. In his portrayal of Vic, Dave Bautista eschews a traditional alpha-male stereotype. While Vic comes across as a one-joke muscle-head caricature, Kumail Nanjiani’s Stu represents a modern day beta-male. Stu believes violence does not solve everything and has the mindset of a yes man. Some of the best jokes in the film radiate from both men’s differing views on what it means to be a man.
Sadly, screenwriter Tripper Clancy underwrote the rest of his talented supporting cast. Iko Uwais is one of the best action stars working in film today. Outside of a cool opening sequence, Clancy’s script never displayed Iko Uwais’ martial arts and acrobatic talents. If a director is going to cast a consistent martial artist, why not utilize his skill set? The women in the film are also underwritten. In the role of Becca, the lovely Betty Gilpin portrays a neurotic hot chick, and Mira Sorvino phones in her performance as Vic’s boss. Both women are vast talents and deserve much more than the script gave them. The only female character given a somewhat strong arc is Natalie Morales, who portrays Vic’s daughter.
Comedy director Michael Dowse had some trouble juggling the numerous gunfights in Stuber with the comedy. Had Dowse and his screenwriter made the decision to focus primarily on Stu and Vic in the Uber and with a big action sequence at the end, the final product may’ve been more successful.
Buddy pictures were one of my favorite genres growing up in the eighties and nineties. The concepts were simple, the one-liners in the film were quotable, and the action sequences always put a smile on my smile. So walking into Stuber, I had modest expectations, as buddy pictures always work off the chemistry of the leads.
Despite my few issues with the script and some of the director’s shot choices, I would still recommend checking out Stuber at a matinee.
MPAA rating: R
Final Grade: C+