Believe it or not, when putting together an action buddy comedy movie there are more important things to worry about than car chases and explosions; no, the most vital ingredient by far is getting the chemistry between the two leads absolutely correct.
Since the days of Laurel & Hardy, crafting the perfect double act, making them at odds with one another and then forcing them to bond over terrifying acts of violence has been the go-to setting for many an American movie (mostly action) and was honed to a fine perfection with the Riggs & Murtaugh partnership in Lethal Weapon. Various combinations of “buddies” have spooled through various projection machines since then but the latest duo to hit our screens feature in the perfectly acceptable action comedy Stuber.
Man-shaped meat-brick Dave Bautista is Detective Vic Manning, a typically driven alpha male who is obsessed with bringing down the criminal who killed his partner. Months after stewing about catching this guy Vic is recovering from getting corrective eye surgery when a call comes in with a tip on a location for this elusive do-badder and so calls up an Uber to get to the location as his sight is yet to heal. Along comes the hapless Stu (The Big Sick’s Kumail Nanjiani), a neurotic part time Uber driver who hates his main job and stuck hard in the friendzone by a woman he is in love with. Essentially hijacked by Vic, Stu is bullied, pressured and outright threatened into giving the hulking detective lifts all around town in the hope that he can finally catch up to his partner’s killer. Obviously bullets and blow ups ensure but there’s an extra catch as Vic’s estranged daughter has an art exhibition he’s promised to go to and the object of Stu’s affections has dumped her cheating boyfriend and is looking to screw. Can either of these two men settle their differences and regain some semblance of order to their lives without getting shot repeatedly in the face?
Without even seeing Stuber, you could probably guess the answers to all those questions without ever having seeing the film, but action buddy comedies aren’t exactly about originality, they are about chemistry. So do the two leads have what it takes?
Kinda, yeah. Not exactly sure about the film though…
Bautista has been impressing in larger ensembles for a while now, single handedly turning in the best moments from films like Guardians Of The Galaxy, Spectre and Blade Runner 2049 and yet the role of lead (even a duel lead) doesn’t seem to fit him as well as it does, say, Dwayne Johnson. It’s a weird situation but he’s far more valuable as a scene stealer than a scene builder as his grumpy, emotionally constipated role would work better if there was less of it.
Similarly, Nanjiani seems only to be required to ad-lib humorous comments about whatever seems to be happening at the time, again playing a character that would make a better sidekick than a lead but having the two scream at each other while they desperately avoid being shot, exploded or beaten into the afterlife by drug lord (The Raid’s Iko Uwais being stratospherically underutilised) makes the time tick by fairly harmlessly.
There’s nothing here to even graze 48 Hours, Die Hard With A Vengeance and the vast majority of Shane Black’s output since the late 1980’s, but Stuber makes the most of it’s satisfactory joke rate and enjoyably gory action but there’s a surprising slew of recognizable women actors in largely throwaway roles. Guardians Of The Galaxy’s Karen Gillian, Orange Is The New Black’s Natalie Morales, Glow’s Betty Gilpin and most shockingly Mira Sorvino (where the hell has SHE been?) all drift in and out of the plot to annoyingly ineffectual effect while the leads trash everything around them for cheap laughs.
There’s literally dozens of this kind of movie that’s better than Stuber (and none of them have the teeth grinding obvious product placement that Uber enjoys for the majority of the run time) but if you’ve seen and loved them all, this is probably worth a shout.
As for me? I’m gonna have to award this particular ride only a two star rating…
If you live by the Uber, movie, you die by the Uber…