Cinema Dispatch: Nobody

Nobody and all the images you see in this review are owned by Universal Pictures

Directed by Ilya Naishuller

I recently got around to catching up on Better Call Saul (at least the seasons on Netflix), so Bob Odenkirk has been on my mind lately and is definitely one of those underrated actors that should be getting more mainstream roles.  Of course there are plenty of mid-tier TV actors like that, most of which were also on Breaking Bad, but Odenkirk is one of those fun cases of a guy who started out in comedy and found a way to effectively bridge that into more dramatic roles; and the fact that he discovered Tim & Eric and even works on most of their shows landed him a soft spot with me!  Hearing that he was in a movie about getting the crap kicked out of him definitely perked my interest as it means he’ll be taking another step outside of his established comfort zone into the realm of Dad Action Heroes, but can he find success hoping genres once again, or is Bob more comfortable playing characters who talk the talk instead of walk the walk?  Let’s find out!!

Hutch Mansell (Bob Odenkirk) is your typical suburban dad.  He goes to work each day, forgets to take out the garbage before the truck arrives, and has kids who could take or leave his presence.  In and out, it’s always the same and while he’s not exactly HAPPY he seems at least content enough to let this routine keep going until it runs its course.  That is until his house is broken into one night and he just lets the thieves go instead of even TRYING to take them down.  His son (Gage Munroe) is pretty upset that he didn’t do anything during the robbery (especially since he himself took a punch to the face), but he heeds them no mind as he returns to his very normal life.  That is until it turns out they stole something that belonged to his daughter, and something finally clicks within him as he seems to have a lot more anger in his heart and skills in his head than he was leading on about, and he needs to find a way to get back at them for what they did.  In the course of doing this, he crosses someone who has some VERY high connections and so becomes a target of a city wide manhunt, and so can’t just put the genie back in the bottle after his little rage relapse.  He now has to contend with the Russian mafia who are not just after him but after his family as well, and so now has to dig up all the guns, pull all the skeletons out of his closet, and perhaps give up this comfortable life the he had set up for himself.  What exactly did Hutch do in his past that made him such a formidable butt kicker, and how did he wind up in the suburbs?  Will he still have a family to go back to once this is all over, or will this be the last hurrah for a man who just couldn’t make the simple life work for him?  Is it just me, or would he have made a MUCH better Joker than the one we got in Joker?  Or even Justice League for that matter…

“You wanna know how I got these scars?  Ask Mr. Whiskers over there, the testy bastard.”

This is a movie directed by the guy who made Hardcore Henry, written by the guy who made John Wick, and is even produced by Bob Odenkirk who has always had an eye for talented people, so I’m probably not gonna be shocking anyone here that they manage to turn in a darn good action film that’s a lot of fun to watch and is a breath of fresh air from some of the other entries in this genre.  Sure there are at least half a dozen high profile movies that this ends up drawing inspiration from, but you can sell a movie like this with a strong lead performance and Odenkirk shines brightly with what he’s given to do.  A man bereft of meaning in his life, a destructive force who seeks only his own selfish gratification, and the one man who can stand up to an army out of sheer spite, all fighting for dominance in any given scene, and Odenkirk manages to sell that inner conflict through a very layered performance helped by some very strong filmmakers who know how to carry that arc through a movie filed with blood, smoke, and cheesy needle drops.  It’s got its problems that I’ll be more than happy to tell you about and it doesn’t really come close to the technical bona-fides of the John Wick franchise, but Odenkirk’s first foray into this kind of film is definitely an entertaining and memorable one.

“We’ll the next one Nobody’s Fool. Then Nobody’s Business. After that they’ll get someone else to play me but then I’ll come back for one more called Nobody Does it Better.”

What I liked about this movie is apparent right off the bat with Odenkirk filling the clichéd role of a man internally raging against his life of mediocrity.  Bob in The Incredibles, Frank in God Bless America, even Saul Goodman once the gravy train is over and he winds up at the Cinnabon, it’s a staple of many movies that try to diagnose what’s wrong with the modern world and the men who are stuck in it.  What makes this movie stand out however is that Hutch is seemingly aware his own self-centered ennui and is seemingly past the point where he feels he can effectively relive his old life of violence until something pushes him to call back the old habits.  It’s less a joyous removing of the shackles by a broken man, and more of a cathartic release of endorphins before the inevitable crash back down to Earth, and the first act portrays this fantastically with Hutch’s weary resignation coupled with his absolute NEED to go through with it.  It’s the kind of thing that the first Death Wish touched upon and was swiftly lost in the subsequent sequels; the sense of this is not a path towards glory and health but a self-destructive grasp at feeling SOMETHING before checking out entirely.  You still laugh at the jokes, cheer at the violence, and even feel something for Hutch as he gets back into the swing of things, but it always comes with a tinge of sadness as you know that whatever he’s doing now can’t last and that he’s as keenly aware of it as we are.

“I could be playing Fortnite or watching that new Mighty Ducks show, but nope!  I’m here doing this nonsense.”

Where the movie ends up falling short for me is that it drastically changes gears at the end of the first act to become something we’ve already seen before.  The movie is called Nobody and the film seems poised to stay true to that while watching it’s opening act, but once our primary antagonist gets involved and we learn more about Hutch’s backstory, it turns out to be a sarcastic title rather than one that’s sadly honest.  Hutch is not just another guy with some combat training that will allow him to satiate his need to get back at the world; he is one of the world’s best badass dudes EVER in the mold of John Wick, John Rambo, and like five other Johns and where the movie should have gotten REALLY dark and dangerous turns into a goofy action film not unlike the aforementioned John Wick (which will be referenced several more times before we are done here) and especially Shoot Em Up.  Okay, it doesn’t get SHOOTING GUNS OUT OF PLANES goofy, but that’s about the only ceiling this movie doesn’t reach as things only escalate further and further as he chases after a very one note bad guy.  Gone is the more meditative tone and those consequences that we were dreading never really manifest.  His family goes from his primary source of motivation and greatest thing that he’s risking to almost an afterthought, and Hutch is like a Saiyan in that he only gets stronger the more butt whoopings he takes.

“Can’t believe I didn’t do this year’s ago!  This is WAY easier than a day job!”

For a lot of people though, the switch in tone and theming is not going to be THAT much of an issue, and even for me I was mostly able to get over it due to just how great the action is once things get going.  It doesn’t quite have the variety and finesse of even the first John Wick film (let alone it’s sequels), but then again I was also pretty disappointed in the direction THOSE movies went and yet never got over my resentment despite the top tier action, so what makes this one different?  I’d say that the humor and lighter tone definitely help mitigate my frustrations as it becomes clear right at the halfway point that you are no longer supposed to take anything seriously, and I found enough charm in Odenkirk’s schlub turned super spy character for it to carry my through to the end.  The final fight scene as well is quite a sight to behold and the takes some fun twists and turns that only add to the madcap excessiveness of it all.

“This is what happens when you don’t call Saul.”

For me, something got lost along the way as the movie’s impotent cries of sadness mixed with bitter dark humor gave it a VERY interesting point of view that rarely gets brought up in these kinds of revenge films.  Even John Wick for all the despair that Keanu Reeves imbues in his character never seems to have anything to SAY about the kind of violence he inflicts because it intentionally separates itself from the world at large to make a simplified playing field where all participants are fair game and equally culpable.  That’s find for an action film and we DO get that movie for most of this film’s running time, but the first act is probably what’s going to stick in my mind the longest and is the most likely to be overlooked; ESPECIALLY if they decide to do a sequel to this.  So is the movie worth seeing?  Absolutely!  Bob Odenkirk turns out to be another natural fit in the growing genre of Dad Action Films, and they manage to do a lot with the resources that they had.  It’s fun and exciting in the ways you want a shoot-em-up to be and there are more than enough genuine laughs to be found to keep your spirits high as our hero works his masculinity issues out on legions of Russian jerks, but I think this movie should have been two parts A History of Violence to one part John Wick and not the other way around.

4 out of 5

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