Nobody (United States, 2021)

March 25, 2021
A movie review by James Berardinelli
Nobody Poster

Nobody plays like a less frenetic, grittier version of John Wick with 58-year-old Bob Odenkirk standing in for 56-year-old Keanu Reeves (who was 49 when the first film of the now-franchise was made) as the middle-aged guy nobody should screw with. Similarities aren’t coincidental – both movies were written by Derek Kolstad (although Nobody was helmed by little-known Ilya Naishuller), who has a flair for this sort of ordinary guy superspy thing. Nobody never takes itself too seriously, delivers all the goods one expects from this sort of action-thriller, and doesn’t overstay its welcome (unlike, for example, the most recent of the John Wick movies). For his part, Odenkirk offers the right mix of snark, world-weariness, and kick-ass capabilities (all while also getting his own ass kicked) to create a likeable, relatable protagonist.

The premise isn’t new or unique but it’s the kind of high-concept idea that, if done right, can be outrageously entertaining. The “nobody” of the title is Hutch Mansell (Odenkirk), who lives a quietly repetitive life with his distant wife Becca (Connie Nielsen, toning it down from her role as the Amazon queen in the Wonder Woman movies), his dismissive teenage son (Gage Munroe), and his adoring daughter (Paisley Cadorath). After a home invasion that Hutch handles with kid gloves (the only one who gets hurt is his son via a punch to the face), we learn that all may not be what it seems. Hutch has precise recall and detailed knowledge about the robbers and speaks to a mysterious man over a hidden communication system. His true nature emerges while he’s taking a bus ride and comes to the defense of a young woman who is being harassed by a gang of pugnacious Russians. After declaring that he’s going to f*** them up, Hutch proceeds to do just that (taking a few nasty injuries in the process). Unfortunately for him, one of his victims is the brother of the karaoke-loving Russian mafioso Yulian Kuznetsov (a deliciously over-the-top Alexey Serebryakov), who believes that blood is thicker than water. When it comes to Hutch, that’s a lot of blood.

The “mystery” surrounding Hutch’s identity, including whether the old guy in the nursing home (Christopher Lloyd) whom he calls “Dad” is actually his father, is unraveled gradually over the course of the film’s 91 minutes but it’s not surprising. The film’s chief pleasure comes from watching a seemingly ordinary middle-class, white collar guy take down an army of trained thugs. Odenkirk embodies the “everyman” persona necessary for this to work. There’s nothing special about Hutch (at least based on his appearance). He could be your father. And Christopher Lloyd could be your grandpa.

The movie contains the same dry humor that infused the John Wick films. Although the action is in earnest and generates a fair degree of tension during the most intense sequences, the film’s breezy tone is a tonic for those who don’t like to feel wrung-out after violent, edge-of-the-seat confrontations. Shot selection, dialogue, Odenkirk’s expressions, and even the soundtrack all contribute. The film’s music isn’t what one might expect for the genre but the old standards are wonderfully, ironically effective.

Like many recent movies, Nobody’s release date was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. It remains an open question whether the film’s visibility will be improved by the release delay. Despite not having any big-name stars (Odenkirk is recognizable primarily due to his roles in Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, but he is still perceived in Hollywood as more of a character actor than a leading man), the film offers the kind of easily-digestible action film – with plenty of hard-hitting violence to go along with its tongue-in-cheek tone – that appeals to mass audiences. Just because it doesn’t have Keanu Reeves doesn’t mean it can’t provide an enjoyable hour-and-a-half.

Nobody (United States, 2021)

Director: Ilya Naishuller
Cast: Bob Odenkirk, Alexey Serebryakov, Connie Nielsen, Christopher Lloyd, Michael Ironside, Colin Salmon, RZA, Gage Munroe, Paisley Cadorath
Home Release Date: 2021-06-22
Screenplay: Derek Kolstad
Cinematography: Pawel Pogorzelski
Music: David Buckley
U.S. Distributor: Universal Pictures
Run Time: 1:31
U.S. Release Date: 2021-03-26
MPAA Rating: "R" (Violence, Profanity)
Genre: Action/Thriller
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1