“A bit gratuitous, but glorious!”
Hutch Mansell lives a tediously average life with his wife and two children in a suburban neighborhood. One night, robbers break into the Mansell’s house, only to be caught by the awakened family. Hutch misses an opportunity to protect his family when threatened, allowing the robbers to injure him and get away with money, his watch, and his daughter’s kitty kat bracelet. In the following days, Hutch’s family start to drift away from him, given how little he did to protect them. This incident, however, has ignited a fire inside of Hutch, who starts pining for a life he used to live; one in which he used with a particular set of skills. Feeling the urge, Hutch goes on a violent vigilante streak across town, starting with the thieves who robbed him. When one of his later victims turns out to be the son of a violent drug lord, Hutch must prepare himself for the fight of a lifetime.
It is inevitable to talk about Nobody without talking about a certain somebody, John Wick. Elements from this film feel lifted from 2014’s John Wick, including, but not limited to, a skilled protagonist with a secret past, over-the-top kills, and an underground criminal world that is gradually unveiled to the audience. Even the stolen kitty cat bracelet feels like a stand-in for Mr. Wick’s dog, and it is difficult to determine whether or not this was a throwaway parody. These similarities are not surprising, since screenwriter Derek Kolstad also wrote all three films in the John Wick series. Knowing this, it is easy to write off Nobody as a cut-and-paste clone. In addition, the poster makes the film look rather cheap and forgettable, like the films Bruce Willis makes on a regular basis.
Honestly, the film’s first few minutes give that impression, because aside from the robbery, the film has a rather bland and confusing tone. Scenes occur without any true purpose, other than to show how unordinary and miserable Hutch’s life is. Things start to change, however, once Hutch starts taking to the streets and taking down thugs and criminals. All of a sudden, the film becomes more visceral, exhilarating, and, at many times, hilariously absurd. The film’s director is Ilya Naishuller, who helmed 2015’s POV-action film, Hardcore Henry, and he impressively constructed this film like an escalator ride to the top that gets wilder with each floor. Whenever it seems like the film is going to take a break from its thrill ride, Naishuller doubles down and delivers even more entertaining moments.
What makes the film even more impressive is Bob Odenkirk’s performance. Viewers used to seeing Bob Odenkirk as a humorous character actor will be in for quite a surprise when they see him engaging in fights. What makes Odenkirk’s performance rather interesting is seeing how relatable he feels during his action scenes. Going back to John Wick, even though the action scenes and fun and inventive, Wick himself seemed invincible and barely had trouble returning to his old patterns. Hutch, on the other hand, gets stabbed, choked, and beaten to the point of limping, and yet still manages to take down 5 thugs on a bus. Seeing him have to get back into the swing of things feels relatable and investing.
While Nobody is overall a highly enjoyable action flick, there are some aspects that feel underdeveloped, and many of them can be brought back to the John Wick comparison. For example, Wick went back to his old ways following the death of his dog, the only companion he had left alive, so not having much left to lose felt more engaging. In Nobody, Hutch has wife and children, and they do not provide much to the film’s story or events. This may have been intentional on the filmmakers’ part to set up Hutch’s current situation, but it also feels like somewhat of a missed opportunity. Nobody also doesn’t have the neon pan-Asian style cinematography of John Wick, opting instead for a grittier frantic filmmaking style used in many modern action films. Not a bad look, but not one to be studied in film class.
Regardless, there are a few moments of enjoyable absurdity that help Nobody stand on its own feet, such as the main drug lord’s love of karaoke. It doesn’t add much to the story, but its inclusion can’t help but feel delightful in a film full on constant revelations. One of the best surprises involves Christopher Lloyd, who plays Hutch’s father. Without spoiling the scene, it’s a scenario that movie buffs can see coming from a mile away, but the payoff is too glorious to complain about it. All of these moments and more build up to a finale that is equal parts sublime, ridiculous, and sensational. If director Naishuller did construct this film like an escalator to the top, it would be interesting to see where to go from there!
Overall, what Nobody lacks in originality, it makes up for with tooth-to-nail entertainment. Whatever work Bob Odenkirk did to prepare for his role paid off beautifully as he carries the film exceptionally well, even more so when is joined by Christopher Lloyd and RZA. Anyone who is a fan of John Wick-style action will enjoy this film, despite the comparisons between the two. Some people might think this film won’t offer much, but just like Hutch, it would be wise not to underestimate its capabilities!