It’s Better Call Saul’s Bob Odenkirk, but not as we know him – here’s our review of the jaw-dropping knockdown actioner, Nobody.
The opening scene of Nobody sets the bar nicely for the rest of the movie, with an audacious, almost-wordless bit of comic business that neatly establishes a destination for former auditor and devoted family man Hutch Mansell (played brilliantly by Bob Odenkirk from the off) before jumping back to the start of his journey. Sometimes with films that open like this, you wind up waiting for the other shoe to drop so the action can get going, but this one keeps the thrills coming steadily.
In the first act, Hutch is set in his suburban cul-de-sac with his family, (Connie Nielsen, Gage Munroe, and Paisley Cadorath) working an unfulfilling office job for his in-laws (Michael Ironside and Billy MacLellan) and keeping fit by jogging around the neighbourhood. That domestic routine is rudely disrupted by an emasculating episode during a home invasion, which ultimately leads this self-confessed “nobody” down a darker path. See, this one has a script by Derek Kolstad, who previously gave us all three John Wick movies, so of course, there’s more to Hutch’s past auditing career than his LinkedIn page might suggest.
We won’t go into too much more detail, but as you’ll have seen elsewhere, the comparisons to Kolstad’s other action movies are as favourable as they are unavoidable. Whether you see it coming or not, Nobody is exactly the sort of outrageous action movie that fans of the Wick movies have been waiting for, but with an extra measure of dark comedy for taste.
First and foremost, the terrific stunt choreography because it convincingly passes off its fight scenes as scrappy – it’s the sort of movie where the recoil from a gunshot powers the butt of the rifle backwards into a nearby goon’s face without looking too much like a coordinated move. Plus, you can’t help but laugh at how a lot of it lands. Put simply, if John Wick’s fights are best described as balletic, then this is pure, ultra-violent dad dancing.
But as the film pulls on its blood-soaked beer jacket and wades onto the dancefloor to a soundtrack of oldies and easy-listening hits, (and what a fun soundtrack it is) it also makes a believable action star out of Odenkirk. Though he may not be the obvious lead, his route from Mr Show to Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul means it’s not so shocking that given a fair bit of training, he’s great at this kind of thing too.
He’s not the only one playing against type. Director Ilya Naishuller previously gave us the frenetic 2016 first-person actioner Hardcore Henry, but this time, he dispenses with the sustained fast and furious style for a more methodical brand of carnage. Lensed by Hereditary and Midsommar cinematographer Pawel Pogorzelski, this is a film that luxuriates in its creatively crunchy violence.
It helps that there’s a better script than Hardcore Henry‘s too. It’s funny and boisterous and throughout it all, Kolstad goes to some lengths to justify Hutch’s individual bursts of provoked violence. There’s nothing like the righteous certainty of John avenging his murdered dog here, but even at its most excessive and entertaining, the film keeps a healthy scepticism about our hero’s motivations in returning to his old ways.
Perhaps inevitably for this type of film, that unfortunately doesn’t extend to giving Nielsen’s Mrs Mansell much to say or do, despite that aforementioned cynicism about Hutch’s view of her being “far away” from him. That goes unanswered in the end, but at best, there’s a wry and contradictory quality that saves it from actively promoting incompetent rage or violent competence as a marriage saver, like many offenders in this particular sub-genre.
Truthfully, much of the wryness comes from Odenkirk himself, with his usual comic timing and dramatic chops in evidence alongside his impressive physicality. On that note, we should also give due praise to McMafia‘s Aleksei Serebryakov, who plays the film’s apoplectic Big Bad and a perfect foil to Odenkirk’s more controlled character. It’s also lovely to see the great Christopher Lloyd back on the big screen as Hutch’s cantankerous, nursing-home-bound father.
Best of all, the film’s 92-minute running time moves right along, ensuring that it never feels overstuffed even as each knockdown set-piece offers more jaw-dropping turns than the last. Every male actor of a certain age ends up in one of these eventually, but it’s comparatively rare for them to be this much fun. Wherever you stand on dad-action movies, this is a corker.
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