Never underestimate a nobody.
Think of the latest action-thriller Nobody as the cheeky sibling of John Wick (2014) — both films share a similar ‘They’ve Messed with The Wrong Guy’ revenge narrative, involve a furry companion (this time it’s a cat), and use the Russian crime syndicate as their antagonists. But these aren’t the only parallels — the movies both have balls-to-the-wall action, a witty script, are stylishly photographed, and feature a killer performance by their leads. In Nobody, Bob Odenkirk is cast against type obliterating his former persona of Jimmy McGill from television’s Breaking Bad (2008-13) and the spin-off Better Call Saul (2015-21) by going from every-man to lethal killing machine in the flick of a switch.
Helmed by Ilya Naishuller, who gave us 2015’s blood-spattered first-person actioner Hardcore Henry, from a script by Derek Kolstad (the narrative architect of the John Wick saga), Nobody is a giddily kinetic payback film with plenty of laughs and blood-letting. As fun and flashy as it is, though, it doesn’t break any new ground. It is, however, bolstered by some well-choreographed, methodically crafted action and a playful script. The movie sits comfortably with works such as the home invasion film Death Wish (1974) and the OTT Liam Neeson vengeance series Taken (2008-14). Fun Fact: Star Bob Odenkirk developed the idea of Nobody as a wish-fulfillment fantasy after having his family home broken into twice.
The film introduces us to Hutch Mansell (Bob Odenkirk) as a mild-mannered family man and overlooked father and husband, who’s content being submissive to life’s quotidian sameness. Hutch holds a mundane white-collar job at a tool and die shop, catches public transport to and from work, and lives a rather monotonous existence in the burbs. We see him going through the motions, day in and out, through a well-edited, rinse-and-repeat montage. Hutch is the type of guy that takes life’s indignities on the chin and never pushes back. He’s presented as a pathetic walkover, so to speak — this can be seen on rubbish collection day (every Tuesday), when Hutch is seconds late wheeling the bin out for pickup, and through his interaction with work colleagues. Hutch is looked down upon by his boss and father-in-law, Eddie (Michael Ironside), despite the older man wanting his son-in-law to succeed. So, Hutch Mansell is your regular, run-of-the-mill nobody.
However, his dreary reality is disrupted when his suburban home is broken into late one night by a couple of armed rookie thieves, who hold his family at gunpoint. Hutch has a chance to fight back but resists, hoping that the crooks would take what they want and leave peacefully. He does this to prevent any serious hurt. His 16-year-old son Blake (Gage Munroe) is disappointed in his dad for not attempting to take on the robbers — Blake at least tries to confront the felons physically. Following the break in, Hutch’s wife, Becca (Connie Nielsen), beings to pull further away. The couple had already started drifting apart, having a non-existent sex-life. Hutch is even mocked by his macho neighbor Jim (Paul Essiembre) and ridiculed by his alpha brother-in-law Charlie (Billy MacLellan), who hands him a gun to use in the future. He is made to feel like an insubstantial father and husband. But when his younger daughter Abby (Paisley Cadorath) realizes that the burgles have taken her special kitty-cat bracelet, it ignites a long-simmering rage and Hutch’s inner resentment, awakening his suppressed slayer abilities and secret dark and dormant past.
Locating the thieves isn’t much of an issue, as Hutch seems to have a keen eye for detail, tracking down the perpetrators in next to no time. However, on his late-night commute home, Hutch encounters a group of intimidating, sleazy young men harassing a woman (Megan Best) on the bus and decides to no longer be a bystander and intervenes. It is a visceral, bone-crunching fight scene (about eight minutes long) and a palpable turning point in the story. The audience gets to see Hutch transform, shedding his every-dad guise and becoming a deadly and dangerous vindicator. The close quarters setting of the bus makes the action feel more intimate and intense.
Alas, one of the douchebags on the bus is Teddy Kuznetsov (Aleksandr Pal), the younger brother of ruthless Russian drug lord Yulian Kuznetsov (played by famed Russian actor Aleksey Serebryakov). When Yulian learns that Hutch nearly killed his brother during the blood-stained confrontation, he puts a hit out on Hutch’s family. Yulian, although disliking his brother, must send a message that what belongs to him is off-limits. And so, Hutch is forced to use his ‘particular set of skills’ to protect his loved ones from the Russian mob, ensuring that he is never underestimated by anyone again.
While much of the action is hyper-stylized à la John Wick, it’s a bit grittier, grimmer, rawer, and a tad more absurd too. The movie culminates in a propulsive and ridiculous final act brimming with explosive gunfire and a slew of bloody carnage. The violence is glib and juvenile but appealingly so. It goes without saying, Nobody is certainly not for the squeamish. As one might expect, the action sequences are unrelenting, hard-hitting, and shot with precision. They involve everything from brutal booby traps, turbulent vehicle pursuits, gory shoot ‘em ups, and two-fisted martial arts beatdowns. When it comes to action, the film delivers in spades. It ought to, given that it’s produced by action guru David Leitch — director of Deadpool 2 (2018) and Atomic Blonde (2017) — and his associate Kelly McCormick, for their company 87North Productions — some of the best in the business.
The film is expertly lensed by Pawel Pogorzelski, Hereditary (2018), and confidently directed by Naishuller, really showcasing what the filmmaker can do with a healthy budget and decent backing. There are also some choice Golden Oldie needle drops that add levity to the frequently tense proceedings. More-often-than-not, these are accompanied by sleek visuals and slo-mos; I couldn’t get earworms like ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ by Gerry and the Pacemakers and ‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’ by Nina Simone out of my head on the drive home from the theatre.
Although Nobody shares a lot in common with the John Wick franchise, the anti-heroes at the center of both films differ. Where John Wick was built to stand out, Hutch Mansell is very much made to blend in. Unlike the character of Wick, who doesn’t want to be dragged back into his old existence, Hutch feels like he has ‘over-corrected’ his past by fully embracing family life, which has essentially made him miserable. Hutch is set up as a man with a violent history, and we slowly learn this as he hunts down the two thieves who break into his home, his former calling card ‘The Auditor’ a play on being a Nobody. So, Hutch is perhaps more of an interesting character than Wick, psychologically, as he is reawakened piece by piece as the narrative develops.
The casting of Bob Odenkirk works in the movie’s favor with the 55-year-old bringing the thunder in the physical fight scenes; in fact, he did most of his own stunts. Odenkirk sells the character’s lust for blood, taking to it like a fish to water, and is convincing as your average man just coasting through life. His comedy background subtly also shines through. Odenkirk’s reactions and sly line delivery aid the film’s knowing humor. He’s certainly not your typical action hero. Still, Bob Odenkirk gives a committed turn with grit and fury, fully embracing the role, the change from schlubby middle-aged dad to unstoppable badass wholly believable.
Support players, while not as memorable as our main man, also do good things. Christopher Lloyd, Back to the Future Trilogy (1985-90), brings cheek as Hutch’s father David Mansell, a Vietnam veteran and retired FBI agent who now spends his days watching countless reruns of old Westerns. Honestly, watching Doc Brown blow holes through bad guys in his nursing home is almost worth the price of admission. Elsewhere, an unrecognizable Michael Ironside, Total Recall (1990), appears briefly as Hutch’s boss/ father-in-law Eddie Williams, the 1980s’ tough guy giving action movie aficionados of yesteryear something to smile about, while musician-actor RZA gets a small but notable part as Harry, Hutch’s adoptive brother, who primarily communicates to Hutch via an old-timey radio. Unfortunately, Connie Nielsen, Wonder Woman (2017), is wasted as Hutch’s distant wife Becca, as her part at times seems a little underwritten. Surprisingly, Becca adjusts relatively quickly to Hutch’s return to the fold as a killer — it’s as if she knows the ins and outs of his past life already. The Russian villains are very one-note, too, lacking any depth or growth.
Taking fantastical empowerment to the next level, Nobody is an effective adrenaline-fueled actioner with pulse and energy, the film making no pretenses about what it’s trying to be. And, with a breakneck pace, running at just over 90 minutes, it hardly slows down to take a breather. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel or anything, but if you know what you’re in for, Nobody is a wicked good time, delivering as a bullet-riddled, blood-soaked riot. It also serves as a solid star-making vehicle for Bob Odenkirk. Move over Jason Statham, Keanu Reeves, and Liam Neeson, there’s a new ass-kicker on the block, and his name is Bob Odenkirk.
3.5 / 5 – Great
Reviewed by Stu Cachia (S-Littner)