A film review by Craig J. Koban June 30, 2021

NOBODY jjj
 

2021, R, 92 mins.

Bob Odenkirk as Hutch Mansell  /  Connie Nielsen as Becca Mansell  /  Christopher Lloyd as David Mansell  /  Gage Munroe as Blake Mansell  /  RZA as Harry Mansell  /  Aleksey Serebryakov as Yulian Kuznetsov

Directed by Ilya Naishuller  /  Written by Derek Kolstad

It's very telling that NOBODY comes from JOHN WICK screenwriter Derek Kolstad and producer David Leitch.  

That 2014 action thriller featured a murder spree by a lethal assassin that was spawned by the killing of his cute puppy (never forget!) and in NOBODY a similar orgy of murder-death-killing is launched because of a stolen kitty cat bracelet that belongs to the hero's daughter.  

There's something about taken and/or murdered property that drives these once reclusive action heroes back into the limelight in these films

NOBODY features the rather implausible stunt casting of 58-year-old Bob Odenkirk (best known for playing a slimy lawyer on TV's BREAKING BAD) as the taking-names/kicking ass man out for vengeance.  Much of what transpires here is hardly anything revitalizing for the genre (an ordinary and everyday nobody becomes a one-man army of brutal justice), but NOBODY is such a proficiently paced, ludicrously violent, and frequently clever revenge picture that most nitpicky qualms go out the window.  Plus, Odenkirk makes for one of the most fly-in-under-the-radar/against the grain action stars in many a moon. 

The actor is totally credible playing what appears to be (initially, at least) a total down on his luck schmuck whose life is wearing him down into submission by the day.  The opening of NOBODY features a repetitive montage that paints such an immediate portrait of how soul suckingly mundane this man's days are that it's almost painful to watch.  Everyday Hutch Mansell (Odenkirk) goes through the same beats over and over...and over again: The same breakfast and coffee, the same missing of the trash man every morning, the same scanning of his mass transit card, the same punching in and punching out at his workplace (a manufacturing company run by his father-in-law)...rinse and repeat.  Life is so routine for him that his marriage to Becca (Connie Nielson) has become one void of love and intimacy.  Their kids in Blake (Gage Munroe) and Abby (Paisley Cadorath) seems relatively content, but quiet suburban life is eating away at Hutch from the inside out.  

You just sense that this guy's about to explode at any waking minute. 

 

 

Like a fateful lighting strike on Hutch's defeated existence comes a pair of armed and masked crooks one night that break in to loot his home, but the submissive home owner can't bring himself to fight back...even when Blake is able to subdue one of their looters.  Hutch asks his son to release him to not cause any more undue trouble.  Blake is enraged at this dad's dweeb-like inability to deliver the easy knock-out blow to the thieves, and when the police arrive they even emasculate Hutch further by blaming him for wimpy inaction.  Hutch just wants to move on despite being an embarrassment to his eldest boy and the cops, but when he discovers that - sonsofbitches!!! - the crooks have taken his daughter's prized kitty-cat bracelet it's the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back for him.  Using a Liam Neeson inspired "particular set of skills," Hutch is able to locate the robbers and retrieve the bracelet.  On the way home on the bus he sees a bunch of drunken Russian hooligans that are terrorizing a lone teenage girl.  He's had enough and gets up and proceeds to tell these cretins that "This girl's gonna get home safe tonight.  I hope you assholes like hospital food." 

Now, at this point NOBODY places certain expectations on viewers, with most, I think (myself included) believing that poor rage fuelled Hutch will get brutally beaten up by these men that greatly outnumber him.  That does happen, but not without Hutch unexpectedly showing himself as a highly dexterous and fully trained brawler that will simply not go down regardless of how much punishment is inflicted on him.  It's clear here that this man is no mere nobody, but a man with a violent past that's fully capable of destroying his enemies with extreme prejudice.  We're given subtle hints here and there of his past life in the military, not to mention that his care home residing dad (played by the great Christopher Lloyd) is ex-FBI.  Part of the subtle genius of NOBODY's scripting is that it slowly sets up the powder keg of introverted fury that is Hutch without directly tipping off the fact that this mundane looking suburbanite is secretly a killing machine when driven to become one.  Unfortunately for Hutch, one of the Russian men that he sent to the hospital and put in life support is the son of a vile Russian mobster Yulian Kuznetsov (Alexey Serebryakov), who loves murdering people as much as he does karaoke.  A war on multiple levels erupts between both men. 

Not to draw needless comparisons, but I will: Odenkirk is only Keanu Reeves' senior by a few years, but he lacks the latter's ethereal agelessness, not to mention that he doesn't have a resume that's littered with a fairly respected number of superb action thrillers.  Plus, and it was easy to buy into Reeves as John Wick.  With Odenkirk as a man of intense action...not so much, and NOBODY has to find ways of plausibly allowing for viewer buy-in to the fact that, yes, Hutch could stand toe-to-toe with Wick himself, despite looking outwardly more meager.  Nothing about Odenkirk screams out "RAMBO!" in anyway shape or form, but that's what makes the sharp perspective pivot in NOBODY work so sensationally well when it occurs.  When the film builds to that aforementioned donnybrook on the bus pitting Hutch up against his multiple larger adversaries it becomes a hypnotizing ballet of blood splashing and bone crunching mayhem that thoroughly makes you believe that this fairly pint sized/crapped upon dad is actually a dangerous black ops trained killer with impulse control issues.  The stunts and action choreography here is just as virtuoso and impeccably rendered as anything in the JOHN WICK films (the stunt crew from that series were brought on board here), and when Hutch emerges as a bashed and beaten victory it's a jubilant fist pumping moment, to be sure. 

It's also easy to overlook how crazy good Odenkirk is here on multiple levels, and not just in the raw physicality sense.  He has to sell the fact that this mild-mannered introvert is tired of being defeated by everything thrown at him and thusly launches himself back at every obstacle in his path, including Kuznetsov's goon squad, which requires Hutch to devise a wickedly brainy plan that involves a whack of booby traps at his place of work that would make Kevin McCallister blush with envy.  Director IIya Naishuller (HARDCORE HENRY) wisely understands how to embrace the limitless absurdity of the film while still managing to ground Odenkirk's character in a way that feels oddly relatable and credible.  This is an insanely violent picture, but it's so flashy and bombastic (while still maintaining editorial flow and clarity) that it becomes hard to simply not be taken in with the perverse spectacle of it all.  There might be a bit too much on-the-nose music soundtrack offerings for my tastes, but Naishuller makes an undeniably exhilarating picture that's nimble footed (in never wears out its welcome at 90 minutes) nor does it take itself too seriously; this film finds a delirious tone and a tempo and just sticks with it, which is thankless and admirable. 

But, yes, I'll concede that there's something perfunctory here on a basic storytelling level.  NOBODY doesn't thoroughly break the mould for films like this (involving run of the mill middle aged folk that are secretly badasses that are capable of mowing their way through one evildoer after another), and I can certainly understand how the film's wanton gore could become more numbing than exciting for most.  But as a pure adrenaline laced and bloody wish fulfillment revenge fantasy this is as preposterously entertaining and efficiently made as they come.  That, and Odenkirk is the secret weapon here, the straw stirring the drink, so to speak, that makes NOBODY's tale of a downtrodden everyman turned deadly equalizer all the more inspired and fresh.  He might be the only actor alive that's able to scream out the line, "Give me the goddamn kitty cat bracelet, mother fucker!" and make you wholeheartedly believe that's this man means serious business and should not be trifled with.   

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