DIRECTED BY: MICHAEL DOWSE /2019
In a live Q&A that took place after the film for those watching at the various Alamo Drafthouses around the country, director Michael Dowse said that he while Stuber was the biggest film he had ever directed, his main hope was that people had fun watching the film in the same way that he had fun sitting in the audience watching 1980’s era buddy-action films like 48 Hours and the Lethal Weapon series. In many ways he succeeds, mainly on the strength of his cast, but in other ways, Stuber is just too long of a ride (despite a lean 93 minute run time).
Vic Manning (Dave Bautista) is an elite detective who leads a team to take down the drug and crime lord, Oka Tedjo (Iko Uwais). When his partner, Sara (Karen Gillan) is taken down by Oka, Vic vows revenge. Fast forward a bit, and Vic is ready to finally get lasik and get rid of his glasses for good. He is also expected to be at his daughter Nicole’s (Natalie Morales) big art show. Wouldn’t you know that this would be the day that Oka resurfaces for Vic to finally get his revenge for his partner, and show his boss Angie McHenry (Mira Sorvino) that he’s finally “back” mentally, and past his obsession with Oka.
Stu (Kumail Nanjiani), on the other hand, is a man who safely passes through life without ever truly living it. He works at his safe retail job at Outside the Box, a sports retailer, and moonlights as an Uber driver. Stu-Uber=Stuber….get it? Stu has also sunk his savings into a women’s based cycling place called Spinsters, just to impress his business partner and romantic obsession Becca (Betty Gilpin). Stu is desperately trying to hold on to his Uber rating to justify his expensive car (its a lease), and keep from killing his boss at Outside the Box, and finally work up the courage to tell Becca about his undying love for her. Wouldn’t you know that today is the day that Vic contracts him to be his Uber driver due to his eye surgery, which turns into more than a simple pick-up and drop-off.
Kumail Nanjiani found huge success with The Big Sick and again delivers the type of humor found in that film, as well as Kumail’s stand-up act. His humor fits nicely with Dave Bautista, who has honed his comedy skills over the years as the hilarious revenge-fueled Drax in the Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame films. What they deliver makes the whole film work, especially in places where it would fall flat in any other actor’s hands. This is especially seen during a fight scene that takes place at the sports store, Outside the Box. Here director Dowse gives them free reign to improvise, with many of the improvised lines making it into the final cut.
Despite Uber being a focal point of Stu’s character and occupation, Kumail Nanjiani has gone to great lengths to say that Uber, the corporation, in no way wants anything to do with this film. This is due in small part that they had qualms with the way that their app is depicted in the film, but more importantly, they don’t want to be associated with a film that basically shows a 2-hour Uber ride from hell! Bullets flying, windows shattering, and cars exploding are not the stuff they want people to think of when hearing Uber, but Stuber provides all of this and much more.
Karen Gillan, Bautista’s Guardians of the Galaxy co-star, who has already had Avengers: Endgame out, and the latest Jumanji sequel on the way, appears in what amounts to a glorified cameo. Despite this, it is her character that sticks with you the most besides the two leads, a testament of what Gillan can do, despite having such a small role. Mira Sorvino is a welcomed presence, but is given very little to do for large stretches of the film…a bit of a waste.
The script is largely predictable and follows all of the main formulaic tropes associated with the buddy-action-comedy genre. As this was the goal of the director, then you have to say that Stuber delivers exactly what they promised. Its only problem is that the predictability of it all is what ultimately weighs it down, as well as making it feel much longer than it really is. I basically enjoyed what I saw, but have honestly not really given it a second thought since. That same predictability of it all simply allowed Stuber to fade away the minute I walked out of the theater, and that doesn’t bode well for Stuber having long legs at the box office. It may ultimately lead to Stu not being able to hold on to that valued Uber-rating, at least in the way that the box office would value it.