Once you get past the idea that this is a serious action movie, “Stuber” turns out to be a lot of fun. It’s a bit of a hybrid — a buddy/action/comedy with lots of cartoonish accents.
One of the buddies is a tough cop named Vic (WWF alum Dave Bautista) who wants to catch and/or kill the drug lord who has shot his police partner. Dave’s vulnerable spot is his strained relationship with his young adult daughter.
The other buddy is Stu (Kumail Nanjiani of “The Big Sick” and the “Silicon Valley” show.) Stu, aka Stuber (haha) works in a sporting goods store by day and drives an Uber by night to help the woman he calls his “best friend,” and whom he secretly loves, to finance her cycling gym for women, which is to be called Spinster (haha).
Six months after his LAPD partner’s death, Vic gets a tip on the whereabouts of the bad guy who killed her. Unfortunately the tip arrives just after his Lasik eye surgery and many hours before he will be able to see well enough to drive or shoot his gun.
But Vic is motivated. After a predictably smashing effort to drive his own car anyway, Vic drafts Stu and his Uber to take him on a night’s journey through the Los Angeles underworld.
The pursuit takes the men to a gay male strip club where Stu and a performer have a heart-to-heart talk about relationships; to Stu’s sporting goods store, where he and Vic battle each other with all manner of equipment; to a veterinary hospital where a shootout ensues while the vet walks dogs out back; to a battle at a sriracha factory with a predictable complication, and on and on.
Buddy comedies draw their energy from the pairing of birds of different feathers: In the crimefighting genre, there have been various male buddy teams — think of the Rush Hour movies with Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker and “48 Hours” with Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte. Women’s buddy movies seem to be more group events (“Bridesmaids, “Mean Girls,” etc.), but “The Heat” with Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy playing comically mismatched cops was well-received a few years ago.
The “Stuber” writer and director clearly decided to amp up the humor and not upset audiences too much with the violence that, yes, includes anonymous people getting shot but also many ornamental jokes woven into the plot.
This has upset some critics, who say the movie is too violent, but perhaps those critics haven’t seen a Liam Neeson revenge movie lately. By some lights, “Stuber” has more in common with Tom and Jerry and Scooby Doo cartoons than, say, “Reservoir Dogs.”
As someone who reads screenplays sometimes, I was impressed with the jokes worked into this script — the inventive use of a room-service cart to try to frustrate a bad guy fleeing the scene of his crime, the rich vein of Uber-in-Los Angeles stories, and the electric Uber car running out of battery as the film nears its climax, among others.
Yes, the plot is formulaic, but it fits together better than, say, 2017’s “Baby Driver,” which was more implausible AND featured gruesome shootouts that killed many identifiable characters.
Actors Bautista and Nanjani acquit themselves well, particularly Nanjani, and we can expect to see more of Bautista over time, perhaps as we have with Dwayne Johnson.
“Stuber” probably will not be a great success at the box office, but if you like to laugh, you might enjoy it.
The other complaint about “Stuber” is that the story has no strong female characters. This is true, but in this film the two buddies carry virtually all the action. Perhaps if there is a remake, a woman actor could play Vickie or Susan.
One actress who has a small part in the story is Mira Sorvino, who plays Vic’s LAPD boss. Sorvino won her acting Oscar more than 20 years ago, and it is believed that her promising career was torpedoed later by Harvey Weinstein after she rejected his advances. She seems to have been working steadily since in smaller roles, but her career almost certainly would have been more prominent if Weinstein had been held to account many years earlier.