de facto film reviews 2 stars

The possibility of bad Uber drives has become a joke on the Internet. The fact that you’re free to accept jobs from random people through the app means you’re more than likely to get someone strange. Very few people are who they say they are on the Internet, so it’s possible that the person you pick up isn’t going to be the person they say they are. Now, the new movie Stuber explores this concept through the eyes of someone not quite ready for an adventure like that.

Stu (Kumail Nanjiani) is struggling to make ends meet, with his dead-end retail job, meeting the expectations of his feminist love interest Becca (Betty Gilpin), and suffering from one 1-star Uber job after another. He begins to fear that his life may not be going in the direction he wanted, and worries that he might loose the girl of his dreams. That is, until he picks up someone new.

He’s about to meet Vic (Dave Bautista), a hard-boiled detective whose hot on the trail of a bloodthirsty terrorist named Teijo (Iko Uwais). Vic has been more determined to find him after he killed his partner in cold blood. Unfortunately, a recent eye surgery has left him unable to complete his mission by himself, and he’s forced to recruit the very reluctant Stu on a violent and wacky adventure around Los Angeles to stop him.

Stuber has the makings of a great buddy cop movie, with two big stars who both have great comedic chemistry, and a premise that takes a timely concept and turns it on its head. Unfortunately, despite some comedic moments and great chemistry between Nanjiani and Bautista, the movie never offers more than a mildly entertaining diversion. It’s best enjoyed if you’re with friends whom you can enjoy its pure stupidity with.

One of the better parts of the film comes from the interactions between the leads. Kumail Nanjiani is a great comedian by himself, always knowing how to deliver comedic lines in the best possible way. So surprisingly, pairing him with Bautista gives him a great character to bounce his lines off of. Nanjiani’s mild-mannered personality and Bautista’s chiseled one are great contrasts that make for some truly laugh-out-loud moments.

Bautista should also get some serious credit for his performance. Despite being best known as Drax in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, his role in this movie never once comes off as the crazy alien character. He may be playing a stereotypical cop, but that kind of character works well for him. He both looks and acts the character in a way that makes him a tough cop, but also a lovable one at that.

Unfortunately, this movies stumbles when it comes to the story. It has a great concept with a lot of comedic potential. However, the writer decided to use the most basic story possible for the two leading men. If you’ve seen any movie following the “mild-mannered man thrown into a crazy situation,” you’ve basically seen this movie. It doesn’t do much to really reinvent the form or add any new twists to it.

The casting also doesn’t work well in terms of the characters. While Nanjiani and Bautista are undoubtably perfect for their roles, characters like the villain Teijo didn’t seem large enough for their actors. Iko Uwais is such a big actor, but his greatest benefits to his talents are never used to their full potential. One can’t help but wonder why someone as big as him is in a part so small.

Similar to most action movies these days, the way the high-stakes shootout sequences are shot doesn’t always work. The film’s shaky cam action sequences never very quickly get annoying to look at, and it becomes difficult to see what’s going on half the time. It also relies too heavily on the violence of its action, which sometimes becomes a little too much. The way people are graphically killed in this movie plays on a more comedic level that never quite works all the time, and eventually becomes tiresome.

Stuber manages to get by on the arguably fantastic chemistry between Nanjiani and Bautista and a handful of comedic moments. Unfortunately, the story is too basic to fully take advantage of the assets they’ve pulled together. The violence is too over-the-top, the humor never quite sticks the landing all the time, and the action sequences get old way too fast. The only way to truly describe this film is that it’s “the strangest Uber commercial ever made.”