Back in the late eighties/early nineties action comedies were one of the hottest crazes around, with such excellent buddy cop features as the Lethal Weapon franchise and 48 Hours; only to disappear for a substantial amount of time. Then in 2012 the genre had a brief resurgence with the hilarious 21 Jump Street films. Only to have the genre once more dive into the abyss of irrelevance in hopes of rising again from the ashes. Years later it has finally happened with the return of sorts...a kidnapped buddy cop adventure film, Stuber. Stuber may not be the film you were thinking we needed but it’s the critical example of how this genre needs to be brought back to the audience as soon as possible.
Michael Dowse’s direction is unfortunately a little disjointed at times, while I admired pieces of the What If director’s direction, it seemed to have an unwillingness to focus in on one particular genre in the film. Not perfectly combining the comedic atmosphere of the script to the well handled action set pieces to help the adrenaline keep pumping. The story moves at a neck break speed and Dave Bautista/Kumail Nanjiani never give you a second to think about the direction as their acting is either making you gasp for breath or hang on the edge of your seat as this buddy comedy doesn’t have many limits.
The plot is outrageous, never really trying to be entirely convincing with its realism but instead takes us on a surreal adventure that capitalizes on what a film is supposed to do, remove you from your current reality and into a brand new semi-familiar world. The film follows Kumail Nanjiani’s Stu, an Uber driver who is sprung into a criminal investigation as Dave Bautista’s Vic is temporary ridden of vision after having corrective eye surgery and has to call an Uber. As the film moves along, the two start to build an awkward friendship between one another as they dive deeper and deeper into the case. The story is full of twists and turns, fueled by action set pieces and incredibly dry humor - the story manages to be a gratifying experience.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Dave Bautista and Kumail Nanjani are the dynamic duo that we never knew we needed, with Bautista’s dry delivery and Nanjiani’s awkward approach. There’s a surprise cameo as soon as the film begins and it’s a delightful inclusion to the opening action sequence. The film is primarily Bautista and Nanjiani, but small roles back their way into the film however only two stand out as comically great additions to the film and they are actors Steve Howey (Shameless) and Jimmy Tatro (22 Jump Street), so stay tuned when those two actors come on screen. However among these surprises are some lackluster performances by actors that bring almost nothing to their role, in this instance I am speaking of actress Natalie Morales (Santa Clarita Diet) as Bautista’s Vic’s daughter. Her involvement has potential but her delivery is dry and among the awkward nature of the two leads, her delivery oddly doesn’t flow particularly well. Also Betty Gilpin (GLOW) is incredibly wasted as a “romantic” influence to Stu’s actions throughout the film, her talents could of been easily better utilized within the film. The only other actor that is easily penalized for their performance is the film’s villain Iko Uwais (The Raid: Redemption), his action scenes work well but they are far and in between, with his insanity not getting enough exposure to fully enhance his characterization in the film. His villainous character leaves a lot to be desired for more reasons than one and the lacking twist in the film makes his involvement even less substantial. However keep in mind that the comedic dynamic between the two leads makes the film’s runtime instantaneously fly by, laughing hysterically throughout a majority of the duo’s adventure.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
The Raid: Redemption composer Joseph Trapanese helms the score for Stuber and dare I say it is a tad underwhelming in comparison to the composer’s other pieces. The sound design is sharp and makes even the most surreal moment, filled with realism (That probably makes no sense). There’s unfortunately not a lot to say here, the score is mild natured and the sound design works quite well but nothing outstanding presents itself to make me jump over the moon to talk about it.
Stuber is an action film at heart with special effects to match. The film rarely separates itself from the focus of its two main characters Stu and Vic after the duo meet in Stu’s Uber. The shootouts aren’t frequent with most of the action coming spontaneously throughout the film, usually speeding from one extreme to the next. As the violence gets more and more rapid, the CGI/practical effects get more and more ridiculous, being well capitalized on, similarly to how Dowse made his hilariously brutal Seann William Scott vehicle, Goon. The trailers don’t luckily spoil too much of the film and I actually highly recommend watching the trailer to encounter a fantastic example of the fluent action within this buddy comedy.
Stuber isn’t what I was expecting at all, with the trailers being moderately underwhelming my expectations for the film relied heavily on the talent involved. Stuber is a stylish buddy “cop” film that resembles the beautiful dynamic of Martin Riggs & Roger Murtaugh meets Dale Denton & Saul Silver. See the film for the endless comedy, stay for the stylish action and remember it for being Pineapple Express meets Lethal Weapon.