WARNING: The following contains major spoilers for Stuber, in theaters now.
Among the most overused cliches in both action and crime movies, after the hero being drawn out of retirement, is the revelation that the supervisor is secretly the criminal mastermind: James Cromwell's Captain Dudley Smith in L.A. Confidential; Ed Harris' Detective Remy Bressant in Gone Baby Gone; Morgan Freeman's Sloan in Wanted; even Liam Neeson's High T in the recent Men in Black: International. It's a twist that savvy audiences have come to expect, but that doesn't prevent filmmakers from returning to that particular well, time and again.
Sadly, director Michael Dowse's Stuber succumbs to that same plot device, which we're, quite frankly, tired of seeing onscreen.
Stuber follows Vic (Dave Bautista), a grizzled LAPD detective who's trying to catch a gang and its leader, Teijo (Iko Uwais), after they killed his partner Sarah (Karen Gillan) months earlier. Vic hasn't been handling the issue well, and his captain, Angie (Mira Sorvino), recommends he take time off to focus on his health -- namely, to undergo eye surgery for his failing vision.
While recuperating from LASIK eye surgery, Vic is tipped off that Teijo will make a drop in a few days, which leads the detective to call an Uber, only to commandeer the driver, Stu (Kumail Nanjiani), as his chauffeur. It becomes a buddy-cop movie from there on, as they chase down lead after lead. Finally arriving at a scrapyard, the battered and bruised duo parts ways, as Vic knows this is a job for the big guns, and he sends Stu away. Vic then calls Angie for reinforcements, but she's actually one of the cops on Teijo's payroll. It's lazy writing.
It turns out that Angie put Vic on the trail so she could have him meet and kill informants, thus allowing her to frame him as Teijo's corrupt cop. It's win-win, because even if Vic dies trying to find the drop, she can still plant evidence on him. When she meets up with him at the drop, she shoots Vic and reveals her plan, confessing there was going to be an internal affairs investigation into her department; therefore, she required a fall guy. Vic fit the bill, as Angie could also frame him for Sarah's murder. We've seen this time and time again -- and as we've seen before, there's no real narrative impact.
When we see one of Vic's informants call Angie, Dowse doesn't try to disguise the reveal. He instead cuts to her at an art gallery, where she meets Vic's daughter as an alibi, which takes away from the suspense when she confronts Vic on at the scrapyard.
Ultimately, Stuber's concept isn't bad, but not having a proper mastermind in the final act slows down the movie's momentum. This could have been the next Ride Along, and even touched on old-school movies like Lethal Weapon or 48 Hours, but with a predictable villain, it ends up being a bit of a car crash.
Directed by Michael Dowse, Stuber stars Kumail Nanjiani, Dave Bautista, Iko Uwais, Natalie Morales, Betty Gilpin, Jimmy Tatro, Mira Sorvino and Karen Gillan. The film is in theaters now.