The ‘buddy cop’ sub-genre of 80s and 90s action movies found a way to incorporate comedy into a action flick. There are countless examples of this like Tango and Cash, and 48 Hours. I was always partial to Showdown in Little Tokyo.
In either case, you take two folks who are nearly complete opposites and throw them together to solve a crime. The standard format is that these two opposites each establish their skill, make some progress, suffer a loss while fighting with each other and swearing they’ll never work together again, but then come together for the final battle and forge a friendship of sorts. It’s tested and true and it works. It works especially well if you have two actors who enjoy each other’s company and can play off one another in swift comedic beats.
Stuber feels like a throwback to those movies. Police officer Vic Manning is chasing down drug dealer Tedjo when his partner gets killed in the line of duty and he gets injured. He swears he will get Tedjo. He then has lasik surgery and gets a lead while recovering. Because his eyes are injured, he gets an Uber to take him to his investigation, leading for an unlikely partnership with his Uber driver, Stu, as they follow leads, fight, work together, go to Vic’s daughter’s art opening, and tell off Stu’s boss at his day job.
Director Michael Dowse has mainly done TV but also directed the movie Goon and Take Me Home Tonight. This story is formulaic, and nothing you haven’t seen before – it’s sort of a comedic Collateral. What elevates this one is the cast and how well they do with the roles they are given.
- Dave Bautista plays Vic Manning and is perfection as the almost over the hill, broken, and exceptionally bitter cop who is out for revenge for the death of his partner. Dave is adding to his skillset, and this action comedy is the perfect showcase for him.
- Kumail Nanjiani plays Stu, a guy who is a bit of a doormat while working in a sporting goods store and driving Uber to help his platonic female friend (that he’s in love with) open her spin-gym. Kumail is one of the funniest dude’s working, and he gives Stu such a sad sack existence that it is pure joy when he finally steps up to the plate.
- Natalie Morales plays Vic’s daughter Nicole and her dry sarcasm is perfect here as someone who wants her father to be there, but knows he probably won’t show up…because work.
- Mira Sorvino was a huge surprise for me here playing McHenry, Vic’s boss. She’s great in this in what could have been a throwaway role, but she gives it some layers.
- Iko Uwais continues to slowly take over everything by playing Okay Tedjo. He’s got great screen presence even when saying nothing, and of course his fight scenes are epic.
- Betty Gilpin plays Stu’s ‘friend’ Becca who is really taking advantage of him even without realizing it.
- Karen Gillan shows up very briefly as Vic’s partner who does not make it through the beginning in order to set up his vengeance for the rest of the movie.
- Jimmy Tatro plays Stu’s boss, and he’s basically every typically terrible dude you know rolled into one.
Overall, the movie is short, fun, and action packed. The stars seem to genuinely get along and play really well off one another. It’s more violent and swear-y than necessary, but again, that feels like a throwback to the 80s buddy action movies I loved. I really hope we get a sequel.
8 out of 10 – very enjoyable, also – let’s be real that a big-time summer action comedy opening with two Asian leads is huge. I can’t wait until we get to the point where it’s no big deal because it happens all the time.