REVIEW: Nobody (2021)

Bob Odenkirk as Hutch Mansell in NOBODY — Photo: Universal Pictures.

Directed by Ilya Naishuller (Hardcore Henry) — Screenplay by Derek Kolstad (John Wick).

At this point, it feels like we’re being inundated with action-thriller films that are trying to ape what made John Wick a huge success and a competent film franchise on its own. While I think these kinds of films can be quite good and entertaining, I also think films like Gunpowder Milkshake or Atomic Blonde have largely missed the mark, so I have become more trepidatious with this action subgenre than I was initially. This is exactly why it was so refreshing to me that I greatly enjoyed Ilya Naishuller’s Nobody, which is yet another action-thriller in the vein of John Wick (also co-written by Derek Kolstad).

Ilya Naishuller’s Nobody follows Hutch Mansell (played by Bob Odenkirk), a bored family father, whose house becomes the sight of a break-in late at night. Much to his son and his neighbors’ disappointment, Hutch stops himself just short of fighting back against the robbers and instead lets them go. Although he is swiftly regarded as a failure, it is soon revealed that Hutch only froze because he realized that the robbers were desperate and using an unloaded gun. But this incident reawakens something in him, and soon he finds himself willing to take out his frustrations on a group of drunk thugs on a bus. It turns out that Hutch isn’t just a nobody, and he can definitely fight back. But, in taking on these random criminals, he has also put himself on the radar of a Russian crime lord (played by Aleksei Serebryakov), who now wants revenge.

Let me get one thing out of the way quickly. Nobody, though refreshing insofar as I enjoyed it more than many other Wick-esque action films, is not particularly novel and certainly not original. Is it different to see a family man become John Wick? Sure, but it is extremely difficult to dissociate this film from its obvious inspiration. What I like about this film a lot is that I can see a personality in the fighting style of the main character. I really like how rusty and clumsy he is. I like that you can tell that ‘the home life’ has made him more vulnerable in fights. He feels like a human character, and, even though he feels like a family man, that makes you believe in the film’s early action scenes. The action in Nobody is brutal, no-nonsense, and direct. It is violent, and the main character seems to take a lot of pleasure out of the fights, which is a real surprise when you watch the movie.

One of the reasons why the film works is that Bob Odenkirk has been cast against type. I’m a big fan of his work in Vince Gilligan’s Breaking Bad-universe, and, in both Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, Odenkirk tends to play a character who rarely gets his hands outright dirty, even though his Breaking Bad character often associates with criminals. For this reason in particular, I thought it was especially nice to see Odenkirk let loose and actually take part in fights against dangerous individuals. Odenkirk’s solid performance, which gives new layers to his career, made me think of everything from Breaking Bad to A History of Violence and John Wick. I also greatly enjoyed seeing Christopher Lloyd, whose character (Hutch’s father, who is a retired FBI-agent) is ever so slightly cartoonish in a delightful way.

It may not ever be as stylish or visually pleasing as John Wick often is, but, on the flip side, it is nice to report that it is never convoluted as Atomic Blonde (and that it is generally better acted and written than Gunpowder Milkshake). However, I have to say that I, honestly, could have done without the way the film needlessly tries to tee up a sequel once or twice. It doesn’t need to be a part of a bigger universe, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Derek Kolstad somehow made it so that Hutch and John Wick could run into each other on the big screen and, I guess, that could be neat.

Though it absolutely does borrow a lot from other action-thrillers such as John Wick, Ilya Naishuller’s Nobody is a genuinely entertaining film. Bob Odenkirk’s presence and delightfully assured performance elevates this film immensely and helps to prevent it from being just another disposable John Wick knock-off.

7.5 out of 10

– Review Written by Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.

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