Stuber feels like a film which began life as a title; a neat joke dreamed up by studio executives in search of a quirky comedy. The resulting film feels like it was made by committee, or indeed by Uber Pool. Attempting to successfully bring together all-out action and a constant comedic beat, its excesses are only partially salvaged by the sparkiness of its leads. A five star ride this is not.
The film throws together the lives of earnest Uber driver Stu (Kumail Nanjiani) and Vic (Dave Bautista), a cop in search of vengeance. Their journey sees them traverse the city in pursuit of Oka Teijo (Iko Uwais), a drug lord who has evaded Vic’s grasp for years. Unsurprisingly, the pair find more than clues along the way.
The film takes the ‘wrong place, wrong time’ ethos of Die Hard and embellishes it beyond recognition. All Stu wants is a five star rating and instead he’s matched with a gruff, seething cop who bullies him into accompanying him around the city. This conceit, of course, grows from the fact that Vic is fresh from his corrective eye surgery.
Yet throughout the film, Vic suffers from varying degrees of blindness. Capable of executing men from 10 yards but unable to see a phone screen two inches from his face, the gag also acts as a stupendously crowbarred metaphor. For Vic, who has spent so long chasing Teijo and neglecting his own daughter, can’t see what’s in front of his very eyes.
But if Vic is selectively blind then so are the film-makers, who neglect some potentially interesting kernels. Karen Gillan appears and then is gone for good, while Iko Uwais, the laconic martial arts master, is criminally underused. Even when he is used, his action scenes are edited to oblivion, becoming little more than a nest of flailing limbs.
Indeed, in their desire to smash from one scene to the next, the film just feels uncontrollably messy. It throws so many jokes and action set pieces at the screen that it’s unsurprising only a few are able to stick convincingly. And though it isn’t a lazy film per se, it does adopt so many cliches that it simultaneously feels yawningly middle of the road.
The quasi-anger comes from the fact that there are flickers of a good film here. Nanjiani and Bautista do have undeniable chemistry, with the latter perfectly suited to the role of a bruised and battered cop. But it tries far too hard in every department, leaving a film which feels uneven and patchy. The thought of another adventure for the pair is somewhat tantalising, but it would require a much steadier hand behind the wheel.