Lackluster script benefits from charismatic star duo.
Known for his large physical presence and droll delivery of dialogue, Dave Bautista rumbles through this unlikely buddy cop comedy like a freight train. And for the most part, it’s entertaining, especially the playful banter he has with comedian Kumail Nanjiani (“The Big Sick”). But the thin and familiar story gets thinner and thinner as it grinds to its contrived conclusion.
It does start well with a violent, action-packed bang, as rough and tough cop Vic (Bautista) and his partner Sara (Karen Gillan) chase down a dangerous heroin dealer named Teijo (Iko Uwais). The frenetic sequence has the oversized Bautista pitted against the comparatively smaller but ferocious Uwais, whose martial arts skills take center stage. We also learn that once Vic loses his glasses, he’s almost blind. This disability, however, doesn’t stop the brutish officer from recklessly blasting away with his handgun, even when surrounded by innocent civilians.
After that disastrous encounter, months pass, and Vic’s case against the elusive Teijo is turned over to the Feds. That’s when things get progressively more and more silly when Vic gets a hot tip on Teijo’s latest heroin shipment. Because he’s just had LASIK surgery and can’t drive, Vic commandeers an Uber driven by the meek and mild Stu (Nanjiani). Stu’s modest electric car almost manages to last long enough for the “Collateral” style adventure, as the nearly blind Vic clumsily searches for Teijo.
Saddling action star Bautista with vision problems might have seemed funny and masterful on paper, but it’s really frustrating to watch. The big guy, who is already not too graceful (but I wonder if it’s all just an act), intentionally stumbles and bumbles his way through every scene. To Bautista’s credit, he is completely devoted to the role, which has him falling down and bumping into almost everything within arm’s reach. His real bruises from the endless pratfalls must have been numerous.
Talented comedian Nanjiani does what he can with the uneven comedy, the best of which has been spoiled in the trailers, including the red band versions. He has his moments, acting as the voice of reason throughout the film. What works narratively is that both lead characters are pathetic in their own way, and their collective misery make them an amiable on screen team. And it’s good to see “Santa Clarita Diet” actress Natalie Morales playing Vic’s artistic but no nonsense daughter.
“Stuber,” with a thankfully short running time, is entertaining despite its derivative genre limitations. The film leaves us wanting to see both actors in vehicles with a lot more horsepower.