Stuber is the dumb person’s version of Michael Mann’s Collateral. It’s a movie about two men who are bad at their jobs who randomly meet to solve each other’s issues. It’s incoherent, dumb, really messy and really violent. It does have the saving grace of its two leads, though they aren’t served properly for how talented the two men are.
L.A.P.D. officer Vic Manning (Dave Bautista) has been after Oka Tedjo (Iko Owais) for years now, hell-bent on revenge after Oka killed his partner. Vic gets a tip that Oka is doing a major drop and knows that this is a perfect opportunity for him to get him after all these years. However, Vic happened to just have Lasik eye surgery done that day and cannot drive, let alone barely see. Desperate to get Oka, Vic calls an Uber, driven by Stu (Kumail Nanjiani), and essentially kidnaps him to drive him around and help with the case, though the bump heads on plenty of issues throughout the evening.
Bautista and Nanjiani are two very funny, very charming actors whom I enjoy watching on screen. However, none of their charm and only a sliver of their comedic timing is shown here. Bautista is going full agro here. He’s one of the worst cops I’ve seen portrayed on screen in terms of how he does his job. He is all brute force. The kind of cop who doesn’t think before acting, but just uses his gigantic frame, immense strength, and his gun to get answers, regardless of the outcome.
There is also the issue with the Lasik surgery. Dave Bautista is 50-years-old and I assume his character is roughly the same age, which would mean he has probably been a cop for a relatively long time. When Oka kills Vic’s partner, Vic was wearing his glasses and lost them in a fight with Oka, making him unable to see, which is what prompts Vic to get Lasik. Here’s an easier idea: CONTACT LENSES! If you are a veteran cop and you are active in the field, running, driving, fighting, and have bad vision, why not get contacts? This would have solved the sight issues with Vic and probably made him a better cop.
Where Vic is pure force and all testosterone, Stu is the exact opposite. Stu is insecure, sensitive, anti-violent, and a bit of loser, and when Vic figures this out, the two butt heads about what it takes to be a man, which never really feels right, especially when the film ends up leaning towards toxic masculinity. Nanjiani does the best he can with this character, but there isn’t anything for him grab on to. He’s able to get a few laughs throughout the film, but a great comedic talent like Nanjiani deserves better than this.
The worst part of Stuber is the incredibly messy plot. This is a very plot-focused film and it’s a film that doesn’t need to be. There are a number of subplots in the film, like Vic’s relationship with his daughter, Stu trying to get the girl he loves to love him back while also investing in a gym she wants to open, a mole inside the L.A.P.D., Stu’s job at a sporting goods store and weird relationship with his boss, and the fact that Stu’s car is a lease, which he makes sure to remind us all time, all within the central plot of Vic trying to find Oka. It’s a lot and everything is either rushed or not completed. The film would have benefited from being more a two-handed character piece. The plot could have been straight-forward, yet focus on our two characters and their relationships and their arcs. This would have allowed Bautista and Nanjiani to really shine and made the film funnier and more interesting.
Stuber isn’t a complete dud. There are a few laughs throughout and the final act of the film really works. But the film doesn’t allow its two stars to utilize their talents properly and in a film that should have been reminiscent of a classic 80’s buddy-comedy, we get a film that is over-stuffed and only moderately funny.
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