09th Jun2021

‘Nobody’ Review

by Matthew Turner

Stars: Bob Odenkirk, Connie Nielsen, Alexey Serebryakov, Christopher Lloyd, RZA, Michael Ironside, Colin Salmon, Billy MacLellan, Gage Munroe | Written by Derek Kolstad | Directed by Ilya Naishuller

Mild-mannered Bob Odenkirk goes all John Wick in this gleefully violent action thriller that has a few surprises up its sleeve. How violent is it? Well, director Ilya Naishuller’s previous feature was first person shoot-’em-up Hardcore Henry and it’s from both the writer (Derek Kolstad) and producer (David Leitch) of, yep, John Wick. In other words, it’s pretty goddamn violent.

Nobody opens with a teaser of what’s to come, as a blood-spattered Hutch Mansell (Bob Odenkirk) sits across a table being questioned. “Who are you?”, comes the question, and the title card provides the answer. The rest of the film unfolds in flashback, opening with a terrific loser’s montage, establishing exactly what the week-to-week life of suburban dad Hutch looks like: dull warehouse office work, practically ignored at home by his wife (Connie Nielsen) and kids (Gage Munroe and Paisley Cadorath), the same old routine, day in, day out.

Then, one night, two gun-toting thieves break into Hutch’s home. His son tackles one of them and Hutch has the option to finish things with a golf club, but he chooses peace and lets them go, diminishing himself in the eyes of his son, his wife and the cops in the process. That is until he discovers the thieves took his daughter’s kitty-cat bracelet (a less upsetting substitute for John Wick’s dog as a plot device), at which point he hunts the thieves down and dishes out some violence.

The whole ordeal clearly triggers something in Hutch, as the next thing you know he’s pointedly picking a fight with five dodgy-looking Russian goons on the bus home, and handling himself pretty nicely into the bargain. That’s where Hutch’s problems really begin, because he hospitalises the son of colourful mobster Yulian (Leviathan‘s Aleksey Serebyakov) and soon finds himself the target of every weapon-wielding Russian gang member in the tri-state area.

As previously mentioned, Hardcore Henry‘s Naishuller is no stranger to extreme violence and he orchestrates a series of thrillingly visceral action scenes here. The stand-out is the pivotal bus fight, which has one of the best beginnings to a fight sequence in recent memory: Hutch pointedly emptying the bullets out of his gun in front of the bemused gang before announcing, “I’m going to f**k you up” and getting stuck in.

It probably goes without saying that there’s more to Hutch than meets the eye, but it would be unfair to spoil any of the details here – the trailer gives away far too much as it is. Suffice it to say that Kolstad’s script reveals its surprises in interesting ways, from Hutch communicating with a character (RZA) who may or may not be imaginary to a terrific moment in a tattoo parlour, where a thug spots a design on Hutch’s wrist and promptly locks himself in a safe room.

At heart, Nobody is a pure escapist fantasy action romp, aimed very much at fans of the middle-aged-man-fights-back genre popularised by Taken. What’s interesting here is that the over-the-top violence and the initial set-up allow for the possibility that it’s all happening in Hutch’s head, to the point where it’s a shame they don’t lean into that a little bit more.

The performances are equal parts fantastic and frustrating. Odenkirk is superb, making a decidedly unlikely action hero who is nonetheless utterly convincing in the fight scenes – huge credit is due here to the fight choreography – and whose beaten-down, world weary screen persona is perfectly suited to Hutch.

Serebyakov is equally good as the flambouyant mobster, so untouchable (he’s described as “a connected, funded sociopath”) that he can beat a man to death in his nightclub just to make a point – once he’s finished singing and dancing on stage, that is. However, Nielsen is criminally under-used as Hutch’s wife and the film also commits the cardinal sin of completely wasting Michael Ironside (he appears briefly as Hutch’s boss). Similarly, Christopher Lloyd makes a welcome twinkly-eyed appearance as Hutch’s dad (who has a few secrets of his own), but he could and should have been given much more to do.

Ultimately, Nobody ticks all the right boxes, combining dark humour, engaging characters and lashings of thrillingly inventive violence. It also packs a powerful message, and that message is don’t mess with Bob Odenkirk.

***½  3.5/5

Nobody is in UK cinemas from today, Weds June 9th.

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