Any essential ingredient of a ‘buddy cop’ style action/comedy film is stressing the opposites. This film would have flown under my radar initially, but I remembered that I hadn’t seen a new buddy cop film in a long time, so I found a reason to be excited. With cinema and genres changing as fast as British weather, it was enough time to see what steps forward the genre has taken. Unfortunately, the film does not know if it wants to re-modernize the genre or stick to what has come before making the journey we go on feel much longer than it should be.
When you are one of the two actors in a buddy cop film, you are essentially a double act, and the key to any good double act is having or appearing to have a good friendship. With some more fine-tuning, Dave Bautista and Kumail Nanjiani may just be the next action/comedy duo. Having two people let alone two characters who are complete opposites and having them ricocheting off each other’s advantages is truly the magic of the buddy cop film. Dave Bautista is a hard as nails LAPD detective Vic Manning who gets laser eye surgery on the day he learns he can finally get revenge on Oka Teijo (Iko Uwais) a drug lord who killed his partner, which is used as a running gag. Kumail Nanjiani, on the other hand, takes on the role of Stu, an Uber driver who is obsessed with getting five-star ratings to save his job as well as being friend-zoned by his love interest Becca (Betty Gilpin). They show great chemistry which is probably the main reason you’re still going to be still sitting in your seat.
How the film uses Uber I thought was quite creative. There are a lot of funny scenes and jokes that surround Uber where anyone who has ever used the app can laugh at its accuracy. The film also works Uber into its action scenes in clever ways, for instance, without giving too much away, Uber cars certainly look a lot like The Feds.
That unfortunately is where the buck stops with this film. At the end of the day, there’s really not a lot of impressive things that happen in Stuber, I think most of it starts with a rushed script that doesn’t know what to do with itself. The running gag about Vic having temporary blurred vision just pops in and out of the story, for long moments of time I even forget it myself until the film reminded. Furthermore, I wear glasses, my vision without them is probably just as bad as Vic’s temporary loss of vision and let me tell you, there is no way you can be that accurate with a gun, cop or no cop.
Speaking of action, I can’t help but feel that the high energy gunfights and fistfights are too bland. While there is probably more bloody action than I expected, the sequences themselves are overdone and don’t offer up a whole lot of excitement. The worst of the wasted potential is the under usage of Iko Uwais skills, for those who are unaware, Iko first made a name for himself in The Raid films known for its amazing stunts and fast-paced fighting sequences. Here is a guy who’s stunt work could be utilized to make this film’s action feel much larger, but here he is in a mostly speaking role where his skills only come out once in a blue moon.
The dialogue was very awkward at times, which includes a plethora of comedic elements that fall flat. While I did say the Uber jokes were funny and landed, the rest of the humour barely lifted off from the ground. Ever since he told his life story in The Big Sick, Kumail Nanjiani has blossomed in to a promising comedic actor, however his wisecracks are expanded on so much, it drags the scene and by the time we reach any action, the audience is already bored making what should feel impressive mediocre as well as confusing.
It really difficult to find a place for Stuber to fit comfortably amongst other buddy cop actions films, the chemistry is there but the execution of its comedy and action makes it an outcast. Not only that, this has to be one of the more poorly mismanaged films I’ve seen this year, the film has talent, talent which have made their marks on areas of performance and this film set about trying to undo and reshape them. Despite the hopeful future Dave Bautista and Kumail Nanjiani have together, Stuber was just the wrong place to find that out.