Published on April 19th, 2021 | by Craig Silliphant0
Bob Odenkirk can put action star on his business card now, as Nobody is a fun romp that shows that he’s got what it takes.
NOTE: I have to wander a bit more into plot details to discuss the pros and cons of the movie, so be warned. I won’t give away any plot spoilers, but I went in knowing nothing about the story and it made the set up more entertaining. I need to be able to talk about the set up – the first 10 or 15 minutes of the movie.
Bob Odenkirk is a man of many surprises.
When I saw the trailer for Nobody, I wasn’t sure he’d make for a good action star. I had doubts, but I also knew not to underestimate him. He first came to my attention as a writer on shows like SNL and Conan. Then as a brilliant comedian on Mr. Show with his partner David Cross, a show that was often subversive and surreal. He was able to take his mostly goofy role on Breaking Bad as slimy comic relief lawyer Saul Goodman into a genuine dramatic character in Better Call Saul. He and Vince Gilligan brought new dynamics to the role, fleshing out that character into a fully formed and three-dimensional person, which beautifully showcased Odenkirk’s acting range. And of course, those are just Odenkirk’s career highlights, by no means inclusive of many of his other endeavors.
Now that I’ve seen the movie, I know I shouldn’t have doubted him. And really, this isn’t the first time in movie history we’ve seen moves like this — Bruce Willis was just that guy from Moonlighting until Die Hard turned him into one of the biggest action stars of all time. Odenkirk throws down a great performance — funny, dramatic when it needs to be, and punishing in terms of its physicality.
Nobody is the story of Hutch Mansell, a man who lives his existence in a world that feels like Groundhog’s Day to him, but is just the same regular repetitive reality most of us are stuck in. When his family is attacked in a home invasion, he seems to have been Force Majeured. His son doesn’t respect him. His wife gets weird about it. But Hutch Mansell is not what he seems. And when he decides to pay a visit to his attackers, it sets up a chain of events that thrust him headlong into some serious action.
Let’s get the negative out of the way first so we can have fun with the good stuff at the end. The set up feels a little undercooked and the film makes a few lazy choices here and there. When he decides to attack the ruffians on the bus, he clearly needs to blow off some violent steam. In fact, those Russians weren’t even really doing anything on the bus (yet). He was just horny to mess them up after not getting what he wanted out of visiting his home invaders. The same way The Night Stalker would attack a second person in a night if interrupted while attacking the first person in his sights.
So Mansell is a psychopath? It’s an interesting character dimension, that juxtaposition between his old life and his current family life, but it wasn’t explored enough to get around the idea that it presents him as not in control of his own homicidal actions.
When John Rambo gets triggered in First Blood, there’s no going back. Pandora is out of the box. But Hutch is not meant to be that kind of character. He may miss his old life of adventure, but he’s not insane or otherwise damaged. Yet, though his motivations aren’t explained, his actions clearly show that he’s got that lust for murder in him. Maybe I’m taking it all too seriously, but that’s a credit to the good job they did setting the tone of his stifled life and his reawakening.
Of course, the real reason for this is because the script needs to be set up for maximum carnage. This is fine, but they could have gotten to the same place without those short cuts. And I’m not saying he shouldn’t be a psycho — but that they can’t have their cake and eat it too. In fact, he makes several bizarre choices in the film that endanger the lives of his family, simply because he’s horny to murder and tired of living in Groundhog’s Day.
Beyond those minor qualms though, the movie is a lot of fun. If you like John Wick, then here’s another great entry into that style of shoot-em-up. It’s clever and inventive and takes a lot of glee in its slapstick, cartoonish violence. Eventually, it’s like Home Alone if there were real death and consequences to the booby traps.
The cast is great as well; I already mentioned Odenkirk, but Connie Nielson is great as his wife, and RZA and Christopher Lloyd have some fun as Mansell’s brother and father. Aleksey Serebryakov from 2014’s Leviathan rides the line between menacing and funny as the head of the Russian mobsters.
While the movie isn’t trying to have any specific amount of depth or huge themes, it does actually accomplish something in that area. It’s about looking forward to a different life, or looking back on the old one. The grass is often greener on the other side of the fence.
One critic called it “the axe body spray of movies,” something that only hormonal teenage boys will go for. I disagree. If anything, it’s the battle cry of the middle-aged, trying to decide if they want to move quietly towards death or live their life to the fullest. It may not be expressed with a lot of nuance, but it’s not supposed to be Wild Strawberries. Nobody isn’t doing anything new (well, Odenkirk is, I suppose), but it’s a fun, creative ride that manages to have some heart.