Bob Odenkirk stars in this 'John Wick'-style action-thriller, sliding into a gleefully OTT film with flair and texture.
April 01, 2021
As both a comedian and a dramatic actor, Bob Odenkirk has earned a lifetime's worth of well-deserved praise. Writing for Saturday Night Live and starring in Mr Show with Bob and David each sit on his resume, as does his pivotal part in Breaking Bad and lead role in the exceptional Better Call Saul. But in Nobody, Odenkirk highlights a facet of his work that's easy to overlook. Jumping into a new genre, he makes viewers realise a truth that cuts to the heart of his talents. Every actor wants to be the person that can't be replaced, and to turn in the type of performances that no one can emulate; however, only the very best, including Odenkirk, manage exactly that. A movie so forged from the John Wick mould that it's penned by the same screenwriter — and boasts the first film's co-director David Leitch (Atomic Blonde) as a producer, too — Nobody could've featured any existing action go-to. It could've been an easy knockoff of well-known hit, joining the swathe of direct-to-video and -streaming titles that use that very template. It could've given Bruce Willis his next role to sleepwalk through, added yet another Taken-style thriller to Liam Neeson's resume or proven one of Nicolas Cage's more straightforward vehicles of late. Thankfully, though, Nobody is all about the ever-watchable Odenkirk and his peerless and compelling ability to play slippery characters.
When Nobody begins, Hutch Mansell's (Odenkirk) life has become such a routine that his weeks all unfurl in the same fashion. Plodding through a sexless marriage to real estate agent Becca (Connie Nielsen, Wonder Woman 1984), and barely paid any notice by his teenage son Blake (Gage Munroe, Guest of Honour) and younger daughter Abby (debutant Paisley Cadorath), he catches public transport to his manufacturing company job every weekday, always puts the bins out too late for the garbage truck on Tuesday mornings, and usually earns little more than polite smiles from his family while he's cooking them breakfast that they fail to eat. Then, the Mansells' suburban home is randomly burgled. Hutch confronts the thieves in the act, has a chance to swing a golf club their way, yet holds back. But when Abby notices that her beloved cat bracelet is missing in the aftermath, he decides to take action — a choice that leads him to an unrelated bus filled with obnoxious guys hassling a female passenger, and eventually sees unhinged Russian mobster Yulian Kuznetsov (Aleksey Serebryakov, Leviathan) threatening everything that Hutch holds dear.
Derek Kolstad's script — his first feature screenplay beyond the John Wick franchise — teases that there's more to its protagonist's story right from the outset. He communicates with his in-hiding brother (RZA, The Dead Don't Die) via radio, for starters, and his elderly father (Christopher Lloyd, I Am Not a Serial Killer) has a gun and multiple forms of ID stowed away in the closet at his retirement home. But Nobody isn't a twist-filled thriller that snakes, weaves and tries to keep its audience guessing. Lean and economical across its swiftly flowing 92-minute running time, it instead pairs frenetic action scenes with a character study. Yes, the stellar John Wick movies do the same, but don't underestimate the difference that Odenkirk makes. Cartoonishness can come with the territory when a film unleashes punch after punch, and Nobody is rarely subtle, except where its star is involved. On the small screen, he's currently part of the best tragedy there is, with viewers watching as the enterprising Jimmy McGill becomes Breaking Bad's shady Saul Goodman. Here, he gives the same amount of flesh to a seeming mild-mannered everyman with a complicated background, simple dreams and a formidable battle to reconcile the former with the latter.
Also helpful: Odenkirk's ability to deliver the line "give me the kitty-cat bracelet" without it ever sounding like a joke. With dialogue like that, Nobody could've quickly slid into parody, but that's never Kolstad and director Ilya Naishuller's (Hardcore Henry) vibe. While there's a knowing undercurrent to the film as it keeps thrusting its various frays to the fore, that mood — like so much in this cinematic cavalcade of violence — is intricately tied to Odenkirk. Indeed, Nobody constantly has fun with its casting, riffing on its star's unlikely addition to its genre in multiple ways. Some are visual and blatant. Odenkirk doesn't resemble Hollywood's typical action hero, after all. Nobody isn't a particularly contemplative movie, but it also emphasises how dismissively Hutch is treated by everyone in his orbit, despite secretly possessing skills that his detractors can only fantasise about. Of course, fans already acquainted with Odenkirk's knack for complex characters will instantly spy the texture to Hutch, who thankfully never joins the ranks of toxically pent-up men stereotypically pushed to their supposed breaking points. Hutch is barely interested in being a vigilante, in fact. He doesn't snap in a frenzy. Rather, he just wants to return to the one thing that he's always been good at, especially after spending a couple of decades in a rut.
Again and again, Odenkirk is both essential and crucial to Nobody — but its fight choreography was always going to stand out. In line with its central character, all of the movie's attacks prove resourceful instead of slick. They're exceptionally, elaborately and engagingly executed, including by its star, who does most of his own stunts; however, they're also somehow both scrappy and dynamic. Naishuller doesn't skimp on bloodshed or style, though. He wants every over-the-top showdown to strike a chord, and he gets his wish. But it's the first big confrontation, on that bus, that Nobody will forever be remembered for. As well as being kinetically yet tightly shot and staged, it manages what Odenkirk does so well, and repeatedly: anchoring this gleefully OTT symphony of brutality in the everyday and commonplace.