2019 has not been the best year for comedies, which led to some trepidation when it came to this film. There was something about the trailer that gave the impression that the entire premise of Stuber was based on the relationship between Deadpool‘s titular character with the taxi driver, Dopinder. The massive success of Deadpool (and Deadpool 2) is something that studios would be very determined to replicate and is something that 20th Century Fox would have the greatest ability to do, seeing as they are the production company involved with all of these titles.
While there are certainly some external similarities, with the primary protagonist involving–what has traditionally been a throwaway NPC role–in the main story arc of the film, Tripper Clancy’s screenplay takes this idea and really runs with it. Coming with an R16 rating, Stuber has no qualms in experimenting and transitioning between different tones, and it manages to pull off an incredibly exciting and funny film.
Starting off with a very fast-paced action sequence, Stuber seems to set the pace quite high for an action thriller, but there is no consistency in the tonality. Swinging from slapstick physical humour and sexual double entendre’s to high-speed car chases and some suitably gruesome deaths, the film keeps its options open at all times, leaving the audience in suspense as to whether the film will take the comedic or serious route.
Stuber works because of its two main characters, Vic and Stu; portrayed by Dave Bautista and Kumail Nanjiani respectively. This is one of Bautista’s first roles as the lead, and he gives his all to the role, bringing a lot of the “Drax” style humour that we have come to love from the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise. Nanjiani is best known for his role in The Big Sick and HBO’s Emmy Award-nominated series Silicon Valley, and the difference between their comedy stylings makes them complementary in a widely accessible way.
The film pays homage to the buddy-cop films of the 80s and 90s while adding in modern technologies and services, but what is surprising is its attempts at deep themes. The genre of buddy-cop action themes has never been known for a focus on developing characters or thematic choices, but an effort has been made to provide a character arc for both Vic and Stu, with both arcs working together as a commentary on traditional societal expectations of masculinity. Vic’s brawn opposes Stu’s emotional strength and the conflict and banter that they create is a thrill to watch.
Where the film is lacking is in its treatment of the antagonist, Oka Teijo. Specifically, Teijo is portrayed by the actor, stuntman, fight choreographer, and martial artist Iko Uwais (best known for his work on The Raid and The Raid 2). With no character development at all, the character of Teijo is underutilised, and while there are a couple good fight scenes, much of what could have been visually fascinating to watch is instead blurred beyond recognition by shaky cam.
There are definitely some predictable elements. It is very rare that we get an original idea in modern cinema but the inconsistent tone keeps the audience guessing, and the quirky chemistry between Bautista and Nanjiani is incredibly strong. tThe amount of comedic material in the film is guaranteed to get a laugh out of you on a frequent basis, no matter your humour. This is no Citizen Kane, but it’s a belly full of laughs, with some great high-impact action.
by Alex Moulton.