“Is that where a blind cop kidnaps an Uber driver?”
That pretty much tells the story of Stuber. The title is a combination of the lead character’s name, Stuart and Uber. With the advent of Uber, the entire concept of hiring a ride has changed significantly. Taxi drivers are swiftly becoming a thing of the past, and ride-sharing aps like Uber and Lyft are taking over the market to the point that taxi companies do not even exist in some cities any longer. I have to admit, I’m not so sure I’m completely on board with the idea of regular unregulated folks out there picking up complete strangers who happen to have hailed them via their cell phones on an anonymous app. It’s a bit dangerous for both parties, and it’s not surprising that the horror stories have been appearing in the news about these ride experiences going horribly astray. That’s the fear or reality that serves as the central theme for Stuber. While I’m sure the first Uber horror film is either in production or at least being written as I type these words, Stuber opts for the more comedic and action-oriented version of the idea. But make no mistake. More is coming.
Stu (Nanjiani) has a somewhat pitiful life. He works at a huge sporting goods store named Outside the Box where his owner’s son boss likes to poke fun at him every chance he gets. He also supplements that meager income by driving for Uber, where he deals with all kinds of rude and unforgiving people who are starting to leave low ratings in his account. If he falls below a 4-star average, he’s going to lose the job. It doesn’t help that he’s just shelled out his life’s savings to a girl, Becca (Gilpin) so that he can become a silent partner in her dream, a women-only spin class. Of course, the only reason he’s doing that is because he has feelings for the girl, which he’s afraid to profess, and finds himself stuck in the “friend zone”. It couldn’t get any worse, right? Wrong. His next ride is going to hijack his life.
Vic (Bautista) is a cop who has devoted a long time to bringing down a drug kingpin named Tedjo (Uwais). He killed his partner and has managed to elude law enforcement for years. The case is taken out of his hands and kicked up to the feds. Of course, that’s when he gets a tip that the guy has finally surfaced. It just so happens he’s temporarily blind from Lasik surgery and can’t get his boss to authorize any backup. Who you gonna call? You guessed it. Uber. You see how these paths are about to collide, yeah?
Stu is desperate for a 5-star ride, so he’s easy pickins when Vic gets into his car and has him drive him around while he investigates the lead on Tedjo. The film becomes something of a cop “buddy” film as the reluctant driver gets driven deeper and deeper into the case. That means dodging bullets and running from thugs. All the while, Becca has been calling him to come over so that they can have some “casual” sex, which Stu hopes he can use to ignite her interest. But he’s running out of time and excuses as the danger escalates, and getting 5 stars seems insignificant compared to hoping he gets out of the ride alive.
The film has some really funny moments, and the chemistry between Bautista and Nanjiani gets better as the film progresses. Of course, we’ve seen this kind of thing before. The In-Laws is a really good example. And the film works quite well for the most part. The problem is the side streets that are taken. There are too many detours from the main action that involve a daughter to Vic who feels neglected, and even the Becca story gets pushed just a little too far. These side streets often put a sudden halt on the film’s momentum and take us out of the moment. If the movie had managed to stay on track, there was far too much gold to be mined that was left on the table. This kind of thing works best when we concentrate on the main characters and try not to stray too far from their point of view. This movie obviously hoped to be more than it was, an ambition that was totally unnecessary.
All in all, there’s plenty of laughs mixed with tons of action, and the 93 minutes do soar by rather swiftly. Bautista is more than a little wooden and pretty much functions as the straight man for the most successful gags. When that balance is shifted, things don’t work quite as well, and more than a few gags fall with a pretty heavy thud. Fortunately, those moments aren’t enough to derail the ride.
Stuber is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.39:1. The ultra-high-definition 2160p image is arrived at by an HEVC codec with an impressive average bitrate of 65-70 mbps. This is not one of those films that throws visuals out there just to amaze. It’s a more natural film, and the ultra-high-definition image presentation brings just the right amount of nuance to the images. Colors offer just that tick upward that give you a nice reference color and rather good texture elements of clothing and the like. The original material is 2K, so this is another upconvert, so don’t expect wild differences in this image versus the Blu-ray. You will get those color nuances and a rather greater amount of detail, particularly in the background, which can make a huge difference in the immersive qualities of the picture. Black levels are quite smooth with nice shadow definition, particularly in a storm scene.
The Atmos track defaults to a pretty nominal 7.1 mix. Dialog is what needs to be served here, and it is served well. There’s a nice little sub push that gives some depth to Bautista’s voice in particular. The action scenes get just the right tick upwards in the surround mix with a score that is rather invisible throughout.
The extras are all on the Blu-ray copy of the film.
Deleted Scenes: (4:35) There are five with a play-all option and an optional commentary by Michael Dowse and Nanjiani.
Gag Reel: (3:01)
Joke-O-Rama: (5:13) Basically these are outtakes of one-liners.
A PSA for the Georgia Film Works
I get the idea that there’s a potential franchise brewing here. At least I think that’s the hope of the powers that be. As much as it worked for this film, I don’t think these characters are sustainable long-term. The gimmick works but can easily be over-the-top. I hope they let it go and settle for a reasonably funny dramady. “This country was built by settlers. That’s what we need, more people who settle.”