Odenkirk delivers the goods in violent action flick
March 31, 2021
Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul star Bob Odenkirk goes from Mr. Chips to Scarface in Nobody, a cheeky shoot ’em up that cleverly reconfigures its key influences into one massively entertaining package.
The most inescapable of these inspirations is the John Wick series, in which Keanu Reeves plays a hitman who retires legions of other hitmen who are after him for one reason or another. It also recalls vigilante films like The Equalizer and Taken, in which seemingly mild-mannered, middle-aged men are forced into large-scale retaliation when loved ones are caught in the crosshairs.
But the movie that Nobody evoked most specifically for me is Cronenberg’s A History of Violence, where Viggo Mortensen plays a small-town diner owner whose thwarting of two robbers sends his life into a tailspin.
Odenkirk stars as Hutch Mansell, a listless accountant and father of two who seems to be stuck in a suburban rut. His teenage son Blake (Gage Munroe) has little to no respect for him and his wife Becca (Connie Nielsen) barely speaks to him, except to pester him about forgetting to take out the trash every Tuesday night.
The tedium of his life snaps one night when he catches a pair of burglars in the act, only to let them go despite seeming to have the drop on them. Feeling the disappointment of his son and wife growing after the incident, Hutch shifts gears and decides to go after the robbers for embarrassing him on his own property. His path of vengeance soon intertwines with Russian drug kingpin Yulian (Aleksei Serebryakov), whose two primary passions are karaoke singing and ruthless violence.
John Wick creator Derek Kolstad is Nobody’s sole credited writer and he carries over elements of the first John Wick screenplay into this more overtly humorous take on a similar tale. Where the senseless killing of Wick’s puppy is what springs him back into action, a kitty cat bracelet that Hutch believes the thieves stole is ostensibly the reason that he goes on a retaliatory rampage. Where Kolstad unfortunately pulls his punches is in character development, instead favoring brevity over depth. While Blake and Becca’s role in the inciting events is critical, their characters are severely underwritten and Nielsen, in particular, seems to be underserved in a one-dimensional role that wouldn’t have taken much effort to give some nuance.
Director Ilya Naishuller drops clever clues early on in the film that there may be more to Hutch than meets the eye. In an expertly edited montage, which dryly documents our protagonist’s mundane existence, he peppers in shots of Hutch capably performing pull-ups on a bus shelter bar during his commute. There’s a voice, that of the rapper-actor RZA, with whom he seems to exchange weapons intel over a hidden radio disguised as a CD player in his office. But beyond foreshadowing, Naishuller also doesn’t forget to deliver the goods when it comes to satisfying and kinetic action sequences once the cards are finally out on the table. The brutal bus brawl that comprises the film’s climax gives any of the setpieces in the John Wick trilogy a run for their money.
Lead actors in action movies sometimes get overlooked, perhaps taken for granted once they have a few films of the genre under their belt (Liam Neeson, for one, comes to mind). While this is Odenkirk’s first time in this kind of role, he does an incredible job of conveying someone who comes off as inadequate but may just be powerful beyond measure. When he takes hits during the lengthy fight scenes, we believe that he’s muddling through these imperfect melees out of necessity rather than bloodlust and will no doubt have the scars and bruises to prove it. Most importantly, he brings a wry humor and self-deprecation that perfectly rounds out the performance.
Fierce and fun, Nobody may just be the movie that gets everybody back to the theaters.
New Movies Coming This Weekend
Premiering March 31 both in theaters and on HBO Max is Godzilla vs. Kong, a creature feature starring Millie Bobby Brown and Alexander Skarsgård in which the two iconic monsters duke it out as the world watches.
Coming to Netflix is Concrete Cowboy, a modern Western starring Idris Elba and Caleb McLaughlin about a teenager who discovers the world of urban horseback riding when he moves in with his estranged father in North Philadelphia.
Available to rent on demand is Shiva Baby, a comedy starring Rachel Sennott and Molly Gordon about a college student who runs into her sugar daddy at a Jewish funeral service with her parents.