Another in a long line of action comedies made by people who can’t shoot action, Michael Dowse’s Stuber is frequently funny and buoyed by two capable leads, but it fails to toy with the tropes in the buddy film sandbox, and is not particularly exciting, either. The setup is warmed-over: Sporting goods store clerk Stu (Kumail Nanjiani) is moonlighting as an Uber driver (Stu, Uber, Stuber, you get it) when he picks up Vic (Dave Bautista), a tough-guy cop who, for the moment, is sightless due to eye surgery and needs a ride to stop the drug dealers that have a mole in the police department and killed his partner. Stu is predictably uptight and terrified and placed in danger, and Vic is of course sort of overbearingly macho and hates cell phones, that kind of stuff. It’s thoroughly generic material.
The office party karaoke version of a buddy comedy.
That kind of thing could be rescued by some decent mayhem, but Dowse, probably best known for the exuberantly crass hockey comedy Goon, can’t muster a whole lot more than the usual, quickly edited handheld stuff. He’s even got one of the great movie martial artists and choreographers on hand, Iko Uwais (The Raid, The Night Comes for Us), but can’t be bothered to stage much more than a blandly adequate fight between Uwais and Bautista, and save for an ingenious gag with a canister of camping propane, the bloodletting here, along with every thing else, feels timid. Bautista and Nanjiani are both clearly gifted comic performers. The former is so perfect as a stoic, obliviously masculine authority figure with a short fuse; the latter nails every last moment of terror in the face of violence. But they’re trapped in some really stale roles. It might have been funnier and more intriguing if Stu — who we see is already at the end of his rope with two jobs he hates, a girl he’s in love with but who uses him as a crutch, and a shitty boss who abuses him regularly — was a bit more eager to self-actualize when Bautista has to reluctantly put a gun in his had, but Stuber would rather safely, ironically wink at the hashtag-problematic elements of its chosen, genre rather than critique them by leaning in. Stuber is the office party karaoke version of a buddy comedy.